Lot Essay A pioneer figure of the modern Arab art and culture, Dia Al-Azzawi perpetuates an extraordinary style proper to his identity. Born in 1939, the Iraqi artist completed his studies at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad while he obtained a degree in archaeology in 1962. He is one of the main figures of several movements such as the New Vision group (Al-Ru’yya Al- Jadidah) that he founded with his contemporaries, among the others, Rafa Nasiri (1940-2013) and Ismael Fattah (1934-2004) in 1969 and he also lately joined Shaker Hassan Al Saïd (1925-2004) in the One Dimension group (‘Al-Bu’d Al-Wahid’) created in 1971. Through his prolific career which started in 1964, he remarkably showed a versatile profile mastering art as well as poetry and narrative whom his strong knowledge is visible in his entire oeuvre.
Azzawi experimented frequently with the Hurrufiya movement found across the Arab world, an aesthetic movement that intertwined traditional Islamic calligraphy with modern art elements. These works combine tradition and modernity that instil a sense of national identity and pan Arab appeal while also attracting an international appreciation. In the case of this work, it is to Baghdad, a beacon of cultural civilization. As an archaeologist for Islamic art and the rich cultural heritage of Mesopotamia, his works incorporate traditional Arabic calligraphy, depict scenes of Iraq’s history and use of Babylonian symbols.
Azzawi effectively reused a variety of themes notably from the popular literature (al-adaab al-sha'biyyah) including the tales of One Thousand and One Nights or the ancient episode relating the adventure of the semi-god Gilgamesh from the Mesopotamian mythology. Besides, he is above all an artist of his times and he always reflected the fears and hopes of Arabs especially during political disturbing times such as the first coup of Ba’ath party which rattled the region of Middle-East in 1963. From 1968 to 1976, in parallel of practicing art, he also enrolled in its preservation as a director of the Iraqi Antiquities Department in Baghdad; and in its promotion working as an editor of the magazines Ur (1978 - 1984) and Funoon Arabiyyah (1981- 1982). Incredibly creative, he has worked with a multitude of means, through a unique style, his own sensibility.
Today, the artist's works are held in prestigious private and public collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad; Mathaf, Doha; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Arab Monetary Fund, Abu Dhabi; Development Fund, Kuwait; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Library of Congress and the World Bank, Washington, DC; the British Museum, London; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; among others.