Little more than ten years ago, one of the most controversial wars of recent history broke out against Saddam Hussein. Today, Iraq is free from dictatorship but it is not entirely appeased and the life of its inhabitants is anything but simple.
For this reason, the exhibition entitled Welcome to Iraq, currently showing at the Venice Biennale, is particularly interesting. It represents an unprecedented account of the “new” Iraq, a country that – in art, but not only – has lost the references of the past and is striving to develop new ones.
Saddam Hussein was, in fact, a very generous art promoter. However, like all dictators, he used art for propaganda purposes, as a celebration of his regime and of himself, thus opposing the development of artistic freedom. Also, still lacking today is a Western style art market, which would bring artists together, inside and outside of national boundaries, and also put them in contact with institutions and possible buyers.
To bring together the pieces exhibited, the curator, Jonathan Watkins, undertook a long and sometimes dangerous journey across Iraq. He selected eleven artists who were able to recount through their work the rebirth of an art that has remained hidden for many years and, through this art, the country itself.
This exhibition is therefore a sort of international debut of the new Iraqi art, a must see event for those who, like me, decide to visit the 2013 Biennale.