Artist uses installation and kickstarter campaign to recreate lost Baghdad art library

Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi-American artist, is using an exhibition and crowdfunding to re-populate the shelves of the College of Fine Arts library at the University of Baghdad, understood to have been one of the major fine art institutions in the Middle East. The entire collection was sadly burnt to ashes during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Bilal was a regular user of the once-impressive art library, and wishes to restore its former collection. The exhibition, at the Gallery of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, is entitled ‘168.01’ (168 hours and one second, referring to the apocryphal story of the number of hours it took for books to bleed their ink content after being thrown into the river Tigris during an earlier destruction of the library during the Mongolian invasion, the one second symbolising the renewal of the library in Baghdad). The installation began with a white bookcase stacked with 1,000 blank books. Faculty members of the College of Fine Arts compiled a book wishlist, the idea being that readers can bid for listed books via the crowdfunding website; for $25 (£17.60) Bilal will replace a blank book with a book from the wishlist, donating the blank book to the bidder. As the exhibition continues, the blank books are gradually replaced with actual books, all of which will be sent to restock the College of Fine Arts library after the exhibition closes.

The exhibition runs from 30 January to 10 April and is taking place at Gallery of Windsor,  Ontario, Canada. More information can be found on the artist’s website.

Contributor: Alexandra Duncan, Central Saint Martins (UAL)