On Wednesday, the Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery on the Upper East Side held an opening party for its latest show, Beyond the War: Contemporary Iraqi Artists of the Diaspora. The exhibit features the work of seven Iraqi artists living outside of Iraq in countries like Sweden, Canada, England, and Qatar.
Gallery owner Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller says she loves showing artists from the Middle East, where there is, “some very beautiful, emotionally charged work coming out.” She emphasized that while some of the art on display was political in nature, the impetus for exhibit was “to show great works of art.” For this reason, she wanted an artist to curate the exhibit.
Heller chose American artist Gayle Wells Mandle who currently lives in Doha, Qatar. (Mandle’s husband Roger Mandle, the former RISD president, is the director of the Qatar Museum Authority.)
Mandle, along with her good friend, Iraqi artist Mahmud Al-Obaidi, selected the seven artists whose work is on display. They include Dia Azzawi, Ahmed Al-Bahrani, Amar Dawod, Hannaa Malallah, Mahmud Al-Obaidi, Kareem Risan, and Nazar Yahya. “They’re lovely people all living outside of Iraq now, trying to make a living, teaching, making their art,” Mandle says.
The show is primarily made up of paintings with some sculpture and video as well. It also includes a collection of dafatirs, which are artists’ journals and notebooks. Dia Azzawi, referred to by some as “the grand art father”, encouraged his colleagues to create dafatirs during the sanction period of Saddam Hussein’s reign. The notebooks allowed the artists to record their thoughts and ideas when they did not have access to the materials needed to produce their art and were censored in terms of what they could say.
An accompanying symposium was held at the NYU Institute of Fine Arts earlier in the day.
The Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery is located at 39 East 78th Street at Madison Ave. Beyond the War runs through the end of April.
Photography by Tasha M. Gordon-Solmon
Check the Haute Living events page for more scenes for this evening.