Iraq has a very rich history of artistic influence but the Middle Eastern art culture has been pushed aside with national and political events over the past decade. But notable figures like Zaha Hadid and Nada Shabout have been active in bringing the Iraq art scene back to the forefront as it’s been positive for the community and its growth.

Iraq’s deep heritage shows its influence in the following modern artists and their production has made a grave contemporary impact not only locally but the global art scene as well.

Hanaa Malallah (b. 1958)

Based in London, Hanaa Malallah continues to be inspired and influenced by the overall style of ancient Mesopotamia. For years, Malallah studied with the legendary Shakir Hassan Al-Said and it undoubtedly shows in her expertise. Iraq’s ever-changing dynamic has sculpted Malallah’s work as one of the country’s leading contemporary female artists. She’s established her visual soul through embroidery and her unique signature, which is a sequence of numbers representing the letters of her name.

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Adel Abidin (b. 1973)

One of the more globally recognized contemporary Iraqi artists, Adel Abidin began as a painter before revolutionizing the world of video work in the Middle East. Abidin used to believe that the concept of the art itself should decide the medium it’s published on but he has now ventured towards mobility and the use of physical space (video and installation).

Issues of culture, displacement and individualism shine through Abidin’s work, especially his experience as an migrant. But the Iraqi artist also uses humor and irony to get his cultural point across. Abidin represents the marginalized crowd. He’s made a name for himself among the international contemporary art scene, including exhibitions with Hauser & Wirth, London. In 2011, Abidin was also chosen to represent Iraq at the Venice Biennale, alongside Walid Siti.

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Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981)

Hayv Kahraman’s work puts an extreme focus on the aesthetics of beauty. By using the elements of formal attractiveness, Kahraman represents messages about impactful, current issues in her canvases.

Kahraman’s work embodies her personal nomadic life existing between Islamic art, Italian renaissance styles and Japanese influence. Her art caters to an audience of miniature-style oriental women and in March 2014, Thirdline Gallery will be showcasing Kahraman with a solo presentation of her work during Art Dubai.

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Considering that Iraq used to be part of Iran, modern day Iraqi art takes much of its influence from Iran. Our next piece will explore those similarities along with a more in-depth analysis of Iranian art.