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Ruya Foundation launches Iraqi Contemporary Artist Database
The Ruya Artist Database will collate portfolios of a wide range of Iraqi visual artists working both in Iraq and across the diaspora.


LONDON.- The Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (Ruya) announced the launch today of the first publically accessible online database of contemporary Iraqi artists. The Ruya Artist Database is a long term, ever-expanding project that will be a cornerstone to Ruya’s ongoing mission to promote the work of contemporary Iraqi artists internationally.

The Ruya Artist Database will collate portfolios of a wide range of Iraqi visual artists working both in Iraq and across the diaspora. Today’s launch marks the first presentation of a continuing process of outreach and collation, marked by Ruya’s dedicated efforts to reach out to artists, via research trips, workshops and Ruya projects, and to respond to unsolicited requests from across Iraq, from areas including Mosul and Basra.

The Ruya Artist Database will work to fulfill two main purposes. Firstly, it will provide Iraqi artists with a platform to communicate their work to an international audience of curators, collectors and art enthusiasts, providing particular support for those who may be prevented from doing so due to physical, cultural, financial or digital isolation. Secondly, it will allow curators, galleries and museums to be introduced to the work of many Iraqi artists unknown outside of Iraq. The Database will be accessible to all, from general users to art specialists.

The ambitious nature of the undertaking means that the Database will never be complete, but the Foundation hopes in time to develop as true a representation as possible of contemporary Iraqi artistic practice. The number of displaced artists working in Iraq provides an additional challenge to Ruya in identifying isolated artists.

The Ruya Artist Database will include artists working across a wide range of mediums, from painting, sculpture and ceramics – which represent both the classical approaches of Iraq’s art schools and contemporary responses to these approaches – to video art, installation art and digital art – which represent the engagement with international contemporary trends being seen amongst young Iraqi artists. Video artists such as Rawan al Mukhtar will sit alongside textile artists such as Dhuha al Khatib who reinvents traditional embroidery techniques. There will also be a marked presence of photographic artists, proportional to the strong position of photography as an accessible medium among young Iraqi artists. Photographer Julie Adnan is an example of a former photojournalist who now practices photography artistically, capturing conflict zones as well as commemoration sites.

With this breadth and range, Ruya also hopes that the Database will provide an ‘Art History’ of Iraq, not available to those schooled primarily in the western canon. In the context of the continued cultural destruction being visited on the artistic heritage of Iraq, the Database will also serve to function as an archive for the future, allowing a continued presence for the antiquities of tomorrow in the digital sphere.

Future plans for the Database include Ruya’s intention to expand it to include writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artistic practitioners not limited to the visual arts.

Tamara Chalabi, Chair of Ruya Foundation said: ‘The Ruya Artist Database is crucial for preserving Iraq’s heritage as well as its cultural future. At a time when cultural destruction and human loss is widespread in Iraq, the Database will function as a guardian and a compass.'





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