International Focus: Iraq with Jonathan Watkins

Jonathan Watkins. Courtesy The Ruya Foundation.

10 April 2014



Contemporary Art Society
59 Central Street
London, EC1V 3AF



In August 2014 the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. This year, in response to this important centenary, a wealth of cultural programming is centred on conflict, both historic and contemporary.

There is no more appropriate moment to examine new and recent contemporary art from Iraq and we are privileged that this talk will be led by curator and Director of Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, Jonathan Watkins, who curated the highly acclaimed Pavilion of Iraq at the 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2013. The talk will highlight the depth and breadth of artistic practice emerging from a culture marked by conflict and turmoil.

A restaging of the group exhibition, Welcome to Iraq, originally shown at Venice in 2013, is currently on show at the South London Gallery. If you haven’t made it to this display already we highly recommend a visit to be coupled with this seminar.

Welcome to Iraq was commissioned by Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (RUYA), established in 2012 to promote culture in Iraq.


Jonathan Watkins has been Director of Ikon Gallery since 1999.  Previously he worked for a number of years in London, as Curator of the Serpentine Gallery (1995-1997) and Director of Chisenhale Gallery (1990-1995). He has curated a number of large international exhibitions including the Biennale of Sydney (1998), Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art, Hayward Gallery, London (2001), Quotidiana, Castello di Rivoli,Turin (1999), Tate Triennial (2003), Shanghai Biennale (2006), Sharjah Biennial (2007), Negotiations, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2010) and the Guangzhou Triennial (2012). He was on the curatorial team for Europarte, Venice Biennale (1997), Milano Europa 2000, Palazzo di Triennale, Milan (2000), and Riwaq, Palestinian Biennial (2007). He curated the Iraqi Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2013.

Jonathan Watkins has written extensively on contemporary art. Recent essays by him have   focused on the work of Giuseppe Penone, Martin Creed, Semyon Faibisovich, Yang Zhenzhong, Noguchi Rika, Caro Niederer, Beat Streuli and Cornelia Parker. He was the author of the Phaidon monograph on Japanese artist On Kawara.

Commissioned by Ruya Foundation for Contemporary Culture in Iraq (RUYA), established in 2012 to promote culture in Iraq, Welcome to Iraq is curated by Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.


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