"Live from Baghdad:
Art Exhibition and Sale"

Throughout March 2004

The looting of the Iraqi National Museum of Archaeology during the chaos surrounding the U.S. lead invasion of Iraq was well documented by the Media worldwide. But did you know that their National Art Gallery, The Saddam Arts Center, was also looted and virtually destroyed. Opportunistic Iraqis can be found peddling rolled up bundles of Iraqi Modern Art Masterpieces on the streets and alleyways of old Baghdad.

Perhaps surprisingly the period of time between the so-called Gulf Wars I and II was a relatively thriving time for many Iraqi artists. Talented Bagdadi artists became recognised and collected worldwide, due in great part to the market created by the presence of Western diplomats, journalists, and other NGO workers. A good depiction of the heady art scene during that period was described by Robert Collier of the San Franciso Chronicle in his article 'In Baghdad, Art Thrives As War Hovers'. Unfortunately, since this last War, those former markets have dried up almost completely.

Qasim Al-Septi is an artist who also runs the Hewar Gallery located in Wazeriyah near the center of Baghdad. Qasim told ArtVitae.com that he sold his car in order to pay a looter for a 'stash' of important 'Pioneer Movement' paintings.

The Pioneers were the seminal proponents and advocates of the nascent modern art movement that erupted in turn-of-the-20th-century Iraq. Qasim has them locked away in safe place until such time that he can donate them to a new and secure Iraqi National Museum of Art.

Qasim's example is but one of many dreadful yet fascinating and heroic stories reported by the tenacious artists still trying to survive and be productive in the surreal world that is present-day Baghdad.

American artist and journalist Steve Mumford entered Iraq the day the statues fell in Baghdad and has recorded his experiences in a series of watercolours and writen reports. Please read his "Baghdad Journals" , first published in ArtNet.com, for extremely perceptive and illuminating insights into Post Saddam era art in Iraq.

No matter what are your politics surrounding this last war, given decades of repression under the former regime, years of crippling UN sanctions, this latest invasion, and an ongoing guerrilla war, it must be clear to everyone that the losers in all this are the Iraqi people - and their artists may well be among those worst affected.

One of the participatants in this Exhibition will be Esam Pasha, a talented artist and grandson of murdered former royal Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Said. Because of the slump in the art market and having fluent English skills Esam has accepted employment with the American military as a translator. "I've eased explosive situations at checkpoints when we've stopped cars containing men's sisters and wives," he relates. Like the members of the unfortunate Iraqi Police Force, Pasha endangers his life - for $10 a day.

With two thirds of Iraqis unemployed, a decimated infrastructure, and the exit of many of their best former patrons - the employees and dependents of Western embassies and NGOs, Baghdadi artists are now truly in dire straits.

In an attempt to revive this faltering artistic renaissance, ArtVitae.com in conjunction with the Hewar Gallery has organized "Live from Baghdad" an online exhibition and sale of artworks by Baghdadi artists. ArtVitae.com will not be taking any fees or commissions from the sales made from "Live from Baghdad". Please lend your support to these important and deserving artists. At the same time, you could also be doing yourself a favour by purchasing artworks that are destined to be very collectible.

Entrance Instructions:

When you click the ENTER HERE link at the bottom of this page you will see the artworks of the Baghdadi artists altogether in a single virtual gallery.

Contrary to some media reports, this Exhibition is not an auction. Unfortunately the neccessary infrastructure for an interactive auction is not yet available in Iraq. Arrangements and completion of sales made during this Exhibition are exclusively the responsibility of the artist and the buyer. ArtVitae.com takes no responsibility for nor takes any commissions from these sales.