Cover of Art and Its Objects: Five Essays on Contemporary Art Selected by Jonathan Watkins (2017), the first title in the Ruya Notebooks series. Photo: Ruya Foundation

Iraqi Nonprofit Launches Educational Initiative to Provide Middle East with Art Texts

The Ruya Foundation, an Iraqi nonprofit, is collaborating with artists, curators, and critics to publish and distribute art texts to Middle Eastern schools, communities, and individuals who have little or no access to educational resources.

Ruya Notebooks will publish two titles a year. Each title will consist of five texts that are considered important to the artistic practice and creative development of the selected collaborator. Then each notebook will be translated into Arabic. The inaugural notebook, Art and Its Objects: 5 Essays on Contemporary Art Selected by Jonathan Watkins, was released on January 19. The volume includes an introduction by Watkins, director of the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, as well as essays by John Berger, Alfred Gell, Michel Houellebecq, Will Self, and Gavin Brown and Daniel Baumann.

In a statement, the foundation said, “It has come to our attention that most texts on art, however diverse, do not exist in Arabic. This is the bridge we are constructing, notebook-by-notebook, as we seek leading international art professionals, artists, and writers to share their knowledge and expertise with Arabic speakers. It is an experiment. We think it is an important one.”

The series launch coincided with the opening of the first restaging of Iraq’s 2015 Venice Biennale exhibition “Invisible Beauty,” which is on view at the Erbil Citadel, an eighteenth-century merchant’s dwelling and UNESCO World Heritage site. Curated by Philippe Van Cauteren, artistic director of S.M.A.K., the show features the works of five contemporary artists from the Middle East as well as more than five hundred drawings made by refugees living in northern Iraq. The exhibition will be on view until February 16.