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progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings

This period is characterized by direct state involvement in sponsoring art and by exhibitions organized by the Baath Party. The responsibility of the artist shifted from educating the public and shaping public taste to engaging with state policy and expressing needs of the people. The 1970s was also a decade of heightened inter-Arab activities including state-organized festivals, which facilitated the launch of the Union of Arab Plastic Artists and the Arab Biennial. During the 1980s, nationalism was to become even stronger. An increased ideological bent and state control—intense Arabisim and anti-imperialism—along with a generally repressive mood, noticeably weakened experimentation in the arts. Nevertheless, a number of important experiments, particularly with the Arabic letter in art, were initiated and the stylistic development undertaken by the previous generation continued.

Postmodernism: Art under Embargo, 1990–2003

Unofficial art of the 1990s in Iraq developed in isolation from the rest of the world and the Postmodernism that emerged elsewhere. While the world was becoming increasingly connected through electronic communication, in Iraq, because of the constraints of a severe economic embargo, print journals, magazines, and electronic media were banned, and artists’ materials became scarce. Even lead pencils were forbidden under the rules of the embargo. During this time, artists began to explore the small-scale notebook or album as a primary medium of artistic expression.

Art under Occupation

After 2003, the traumatic dimensions of war became the subject of works of art. An unofficial art emerged that existed alongside officially sponsored public art and monuments. While diaspora and exiled Iraqi artists working in Europe and the United States experimented with new media and techniques, in Iraq itself artists used the format of the book or illuminated manuscript as an unsanctioned medium of artistic expression.