A few details on the 57th Venice Biennale

The 57th Venice Biennale is continuing to take form. Gal Weinstein will be representing Israel, Zad Moultaka will be representing Lebanon, while Tamara Chalabi and Paolo Colombo will be curators of the Iraqi pavilion. Born in Ramat Gan in 1970, Gal Weinstein lives and works in Tel Aviv. He took part in the Sao Paulo Biennale in 2002, and has held solo exhibitions in Israel’s largest museums as well as the San Francisco Art Institute. The curator of the Israeli pavilion, Tami Katz-Freiman, and Gal Weinstein, were selected by a committee comprising Mira Lapidot and Meir Aharonson. Through painting, photography, installation, sculpture and video, the artist turns his attention to research and scientific procedures relating to natural phenomena as well as chaos in the physical world. Meanwhile, Tamara Chalabi and Paolo Colombo will be curators of the Iraqi pavilion. Tamara Chalabi is president and cofounder of the Ruya Foundation, and Paolo Colombo, art advisor at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition, called “Archaic”, will question the duality of the notions of history and antiquity, matching artefacts from the region with modern art works and productions by contemporary Iraqi artists. Turning to Lebanon, this country will be represented by Zad Moultaka. This artist and composer will be presenting a multimedia work in Santa Maria della Misericordia Church in the Cannaregio district. Emmanuel Daydé will be the exhibition’s curator. Zad Moultaka blends “musical invention with visual research in an approach where technology takes inspiration from the archaic,” says Emmanuel Daydé. His work explores the themes of separation, time immemorial and memory of the moment. The artist has given a few specifications on his project and ambition: “In these times when the Middle East is crumbling before our eyes, foundering in fratricidal wars, every act, every thought must be moved...

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The Islamic State continues its destruction

According to Kristin Romey from National Geographic, the Islamic State has destroyed two ancient urban bridges, the Mashki and the Nergal in the city of Nineveh in Iraq. These monuments, thought to have been built in around 700 B.C., were reconstructed in the 20th century. The destruction has been confirmed by Michael Danti, professor of archaeology at the University of Boston and academic director of Cultural Heritage Initiatives with the American Schools of Oriental Research. Investigations by the latter organisation are supported by the United States to document the destruction of religious and cultural sites in Iraq and Syria. Nineveh is close to the city of Mosul, still occupied by Daech, and is part of the city’s cultural heritage. The Iraqi army has announced its plans for reconquering Mosul while the Islamic State continues to destroy other bridges and walls in the city of Nineveh, notes Michael...

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Is there a market for looted works in Syria and Iraq?

Russia claims that profits made by the Islamic State from the illegal trade of antiquities have not increased and estimates this market as yielding around $150-200 million. A statement contested by the IADAA (International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art). In a letter addressed to the United Nations, Russia’s UN representative Vitaly Churkin denounced the Islamic State’s use of Turkish criminal networks and certain web sites to distribute antiquities stolen in Syria and Iraq. The IADAA spokesman Ivan Macquisten made a sarcastic observation: “It is a remarkable coincidence that the ambassador (Churkin) makes such a comment a week after UNESCO published figures from the IADAA showing the global value of the official antiquities market to be around $150-200 million.” In his opinion, Syrian antiquities represent 5 to 10 % of the global art market. Another estimation specifies that the black market brings in around $4 million per year including money from the illegal extraction of certain metals and...

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New destructions discovered in Iraq

The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, Saint Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul (Dair Mar Elia), has been destroyed by the Islamic State. This vandalizing — said to have taken place between August and September 2014 — raises cause for fear that other destruction may have taken place without the world finding out. The destruction of this monastery dating from the 6th century B.C. was discovered after the US press agency AP asked the space imagery firm DigitalGlobe to take satellite photos of the site. By comparing the images to older ones, DigitalGlobe managed to estimate the date of the destruction — only three months after the IS took control of Mosul. Saint Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul was built in around 595 A.D. by Mar Elia, a Nestorian monk. It was then mainly used by the Chaldean Catholic...

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UK’s New Emergency Heritage Management Project

Officially launched in October 2015, the UK’s Emergency Heritage Management Project will look to help preserve and recover cultural objects and edifices that are under threat in Iraq. The program will be run out of the British Museum. The Museum will recruit two expert archaeologists who will spend the next five years instructing teams of local Iraqi archaeologists on how best to preserve artefacts that have been affected by the war. “It will create a team of local experts to assess, document and stabilise afflicted sites in Iraq, and help begin the process of reconstruction and preservation of some of the world’s most precious cultural artefacts.” The scheme does not, however, involve direct interventions in areas currently controlled by ISIS, but rather is a plan for when the territory is “returned to effective and legitimate government...

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