Veteran, survivor, exile, witness: Azzawi is all these and more. London's Tate Gallery calls him "one of Iraq's most influential living artists”; Art Dubai has recognised him as a pioneer of modern Arab art, and CNN describes him as "one of the region’s most influential artists”. For presenter and film-maker Ricardo Karam, “Dia al-Azzawi is an outstanding and world-class artist."
As an artist, Azzawi stands with the signature names of a Middle Eastern art market that has changed beyond recognition in the last 15 years, with the likes of Syria’s late great Marwan Kassab-bachi, or Iran’s Parviz Tanavoli.
Born in 1939, the first year of the Second World War, he was, and remains, an artist both classic and contemporary, pioneer and path-breaker. He would publish his “New Vision” for Iraqi modernism in 1969 (with Rafa Nasiri, Mohammad Muhriddin, Ismail Fattah, Hachem al-Samarchi and Saleh al Jumaie) formed the New Vision group (al-Ru’yya al-Jadidah), uniting fellow artists ideologically and culturally as opposed to stylistically. Through his involvement with the New Vision group Azzawi found inspiration in contemporary subjects and issues, particularly the plight of the Palestinians. He was also briefly a member of Shakir Hassan Al Said’s One Dimension group (Jama’t al-Bu’d al-Wahid).
From 1968 to 1976, Azzawi was the director of the Iraqi Antiquities Department in Baghdad. He has lived in London since 1976, where he served as art advisor to the city’s Iraqi Cultural Centre, from 1977 to 1980. Azzawi’s move to London led him to rediscover book art (dafatir), an art form that he has encouraged other artists from Iraq and the region to explore.
In 2017, nearly half a century later, he was celebrated with a sweeping retrospective at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art. The show, in that flagship of a new era, featured close to 550 works, old and new.
With exhibitions of his work held his art features in international private and public collections including the Museums of Modern Art in Baghdad, Damascus and Tunis; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Kinda Foundation, Saudi Arabia; Una Foundation, Casablanca; Arab Monetary Fund, Abu Dhabi; Development Fund, Kuwait; Jeddah International Airport; British Museum, Tate Modern, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Institut du Monde Arabe, Bibliothèque Nationale de France and Colas Foundation, Paris; Harba Collection, Iraq and Italy; Gulbenkian Collection, Barcelona; and Library of Congress and the World Bank, Washington, DC.
b. 1939, Baghdad, Iraq
The artist lives and works in London, U.K
1964 graduatd from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, Iraq
1962 degree in archaeology from Baghdad University,Iraq