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Dia al-Azzawi, an Iraqi-born painter, is an outstanding and world-class artist, art consultant, and author. He has written several articles about Iraqi contemporary art and Arab art. He is a prominent artist of the Iraq school who played a role in the promotion of Iraqi and Arab art to wider audiences, notably through numerous publications and exhibitions of his and his contemporaries’ works. In 1969 he formed the art group New Vision along with other artists such as Rafa al-Nasiri, Mohammed Muhriddin, Ismail Fattah, Hachem al Samarchi, and Saleh al-Jumaie. Al-Azzawi joined the One Dimension group that Shakir Hassan al-Said initiated but remained within the fold of New Vision until 1972. Beyond painting, Al-Azzawi’s work includes sculptures, prints, and drawings, as well as books through which visual art interacts with prose and poetry. He has exhibited extensively in the Middle East, North Africa, United States, India, Brazil, and Europe, including a retrogressive exhibition, “Dia Azzawi,” at the Institute du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris in 2002. In 1976, Al-Azzawi relocated to London to work as an art consultant at the Iraqi Cultural Centre.


Al-Azzawi was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1939. Seven years before his birth, Iraq was already an eminent center of intellectual art studies with the establishment of the British School of Archaeology in 1932. The school was established as a memorial to the life and works of the British explorer and diplomat Gertrude Bell. The school encouraged, supported, and undertook research into the archaeology of Iraq and other Arab countries from the earliest times to roughly 1700 CE. Before the Second World War, the School carried out excavations in Iraq. After the Second World War, the school operated until 1990 when the political imbroglio that followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait resulted in the school’s closure.

Until it was looted in April 2003 in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq, the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was rich in the famous monumental works of Mesopotamian and Islamic art. Such works included the Uruk Vase of 3300 BCE that appears in every art survey textbook and in narrative works of art. The beautifully carved marble female head presumably represents the great Sumerian goddess Inanna from the sacred precinct at Uruk in southern Iraq.

This rich cultural heritage, along with monuments, historical artifacts, and works of art as agents of memory and identity significantly influenced al-Azzawi’s career. His paintings and other works of art were enfolded with memory and identity. His works created an inseparable link between monuments and memory. He studied art   and archaeology at Baghdad University, graduating in 1962. In 1964 he graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad. Al-Azzawi held several one-man exhibitions in Baghdad, Kuwait, Beirut, Frankfurt, Libya, and Casablanca.


After his 1964 graduation, al-Azzawi overwhelmingly contributed to the intellectual development of painting and arts in the Middle East. Since his participation in the one-man shows at al-Wasiti Gallery in Baghdad in 1965, he remains an unstoppable painter. His collections are held in several prestigious art centers and museums, such as Vienna Public Collection; British Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Gulbenkian Collection, Barcelona; The World Bank, Washington D.C.; Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, Paris; Bibilotheque Nationale, Paris; Pier Gardin Collection, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; Museum of Modern Art, Damascus; Museum of Modern Art, Tunis; Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Adel Mandil Collection, Riyadh; The Saudi Bank, London; Jeddah International Airport, Saudi Arabia; Riyadh International Airport, Saudi Arabia; The United Bank of Kuwait, London; Development Fund, Kuwait, Una Foundation, Morocco; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; and British Airways Collection, London. As an engaging intellectual painter and artist, al-Azzawi has more than fourteen publications. His books and articles in journals and periodicals constitute an important resource at all levels of education. His works are equally important for tourism and the media. His editorship of international magazines has promoted Arab culture in the United Kingdom and the United States.


Name: Dia al-Azzawi

Birth: 1939, Baghdad, Iraq

Nationality: Iraqi

Education: Baghdad University, 1962, B.A. archaeology; Institute of Fine Arts, Baghdad, 1964


  • 1968–1976: Works with Department of Antiquities, Baghdad, Iraq
  • 1977–1980: Art Consultant at the Iraqi Cultural Center in London
  • 1978–1984: Art Director of UR: The International Magazine of Arab Culture , London
  • 1981–1982: Design director of Funun Arabia Art Magazine, London
  • 1988–1994: Member of the Editorial Board of Mawakif, London
  • 1992–present: Member of the Editorial Board of Jusoor , Washington, D.C.


Shakhir Hassan al-Said (1925–2004) was a celebrated Iraqi artist who received several awards for his numerous exhibitions worldwide. Al-Said attended the Higher Institute of Teachers, Baghdad, where he studied social sciences. He then studied art at the Institute of Fine Arts, graduating in 1954. He co-founded the Baghdad Modern Art Group in 1951 along with Jawad Salim, who taught him art history. Between 1955 and 1959, al-Said studied in Paris at the Academie Juien, the École des Arts Decoratifs and the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts. He returned to Baghdad to teach art history at his alma mater, the Institute of Fine Arts, from 1970 to 1980. He wrote extensively on art, including The Contemplative Art Manifesto , published in 1966. By 1971, al-Said had formed the One Dimension group of which Dia al-Azzawi was a member. The group focused on the exploration of different values of the Arabic script—graphic, plastic, linguistic, and symbolic—in modern art.


Throughout the Middle East and the Western world, the works of al-Azzawi are highly valued for their uniqueness and cultural value. He became globally recognized as an artist and painter with participation in more than sixty-four exhibitions, which promoted Islamic and Arab art. He participated in many international exhibitions, such as the Mobile exhibition of Arab art in the Arab countries, in London, and in Rome. He also participated in the First Triennial of International Art in India in 1974; the Fourth and Fifth International Biennales of Posters in Yugoslavia; the International Caginess Sur Mer exhibition in France and the Venice Biennale in 1976; and the international exhibition of drawing in New York in 1977.



Al-Azzawi influenced the emergence of other Iraqi artists such as Maysaloun Faraj. He has also received several awards for his outstanding works. These include first prizes at the International Summer Academy, Salzburg, Austria (1975), and at the first Arab Contemporary Art Exhibition, Tunis (1981), and the Jury Prize at the International Cairo Biennale (1992).


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