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Modern art in Baghdad: the 10th Tarkib Contemporary Arts Festival

Baghdad ( – This past May, the Modern Art Museum in Baghdad hosted the 10th edition of the Tarkib Contemporary Arts Festival. This exhibition featured 20 art pieces created by a group of talented Iraqi artists. Through their innovative works, the artists used their creativity to highlight various issues in Iraqi society.

About Tarkib Baghdad

Tarkib Baghdad is an NGO dedicated to the research, training, production, and presentation of contemporary art in Iraq. It aims to promote emerging Iraqi artists while fostering artistic activism, or “artivism”. Through its diverse activities, Tarkib Baghdad addresses critical issues such as human rights, climate change, and social justice. Since 2015, it has organized the annual Tarkib Baghdad Contemporary Arts Festival and the Baghdad Walk. Tarkib Baghdad runs Bait Tarkib, a creative arts center in Karada, Baghdad, offering a range of artistic and cultural events.

The Modern Art Museum in Baghdad with Tarkib Logo, The place where the modern art exhibition was held.
The Modern Art Museum in Baghdad with Tarkib Logo
Photo by Tarkib Baghdad

The Modern Art Museum in Baghdad: a historical overview

The Modern Art Museum in Baghdad officially opened on July 14, 1962. The museum contains three main halls built by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and designed by Portuguese architect Jorge Sotomayor. The Iraqi government reopened the museum in 2014 after it had to closed following the 2003 invasion. Currently, the museum is under the supervision of the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and Tourism and functions as a meeting point and destination for Iraqi artists.

Highlights from the Tarkib Exhibition

Tarkib Baghdad held the exhibition from May 9th to the 12th, attracting art connoisseurs from all over the country. The audience praised the creativity of the artists who incorporated modern life concepts with the daily problems Iraqis face. The exhibition featured 20 artworks covering various topics such as social media addiction, wars, visual pollution, climate change, and more.

All of the works displayed were created with fine attention to detail, but three pieces, in particular, stood out to visitors:

“Fashionista” by Luay Al-Hadhary

Fashionista by Luay Al-Hadhary, one of the works displayed in the exhibition where the artist featured a statue of a wbuffalo dressing a red dress.
Fashionista” by Luay Al-Hadhary

“Social media platforms have provided an opportunity for some individuals to become famous and gain public exposure, leading to the production of a huge amount of unhealthy content on the internet. Today, the star on social media is not the artist, the educated, or the thinker, but the Fashionista,” explains Iraqi artist, Luay Al-Hadhary.

The term “fashionista” is used by Iraqis to describe influencers who seem trendy on social media and boast a large following. The artist addressed these emerging stereotypes by including one of the latest Iraqi trends in their work, which features a buffalo named Smerah.

“The Dance of Light and Shadow” by Aisha Al-Rubaiy

an acrylic glass cube engraved with words representing different feelings
The Dance of Light and Shadow” by Aisha Al-Rubaiy

Aisha Al-Rubaiy designed a light installation featuring an acrylic glass cube engraved with words representing various feelings and emotions. When the light inside the cube is turned on, the words are reflected on the walls. The light symbolizes knowledge, while its shadow represents the unknown depths of these emotions. The words you will read include love, life, age, balance, dream, misery, argument, victory, fall, and many others.

“Jarida” by Noor Al-Waily

A woman wearing a wedding dress made of newspapers
“Jarida” by Noor Al-Waily

Noor Al-Waily created a wedding dress using newspapers. According to Al-Waily, the work conveys people’s fear of the increasing divorce rates in Iraq and how people around us can affect our decision to start a family.

This year’s exhibition not only showcased the exceptional talent of Iraqi artists but also highlighted pressing social issues that resonate deeply with many in the country. Through their unique and thought-provoking pieces, the artists at the Tarkib Exhibition provided profound insights into modern life in Baghdad. The diverse range of artworks addressed themes such as cultural identity, social justice, and the complexities of everyday experiences, making the exhibition a powerful commentary on contemporary Iraqi society.

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