Recognised as one of the pioneers of modern Arab art, Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi’s body of work spans over half a century. Using both historical and contemporary regional subjects, he explains how it is situated within the art scene: "My work is part of the Renaissance of Arab Art, yet it is universal in its dimension and interlocked within contemporary history and culture."
Born in Baghdad, Dia Azzawi (1939) graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and completed a degree in archaeology at Baghdad University in 1962. He worked as the Director of the Iraqi Antiquities Department in Baghdad from 1968–76.
Working in a range of media including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings and book art, Azzawi uses abstraction and symbology in his carefully crafted work. Inspired by ancient civilizations and Iraqi heritage, Azzawi focuses on extinct languages, calligraphy and Arab mythology. Also engaged in contemporary socio-political issues, he was a founding member of the New Vision artist group, which shared commonalities in ideologies rather than styles. From their discussions, his work became influenced by present day crises such as the plight of the Palestinians.
Azzawi’s work has been collected by institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; British Museum; Colas Foundation; Foundation ONA, Casablanca; Calouste Gulbenkian Collection, Lisbon; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; Kinda Foundation, Riyadh; Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), Los Angeles; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; Museum of Modern Art, Damascus; Museum of Modern Art, Tunis; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; Tate Modern, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The World Bank, Washington, D.C.; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah.