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Michael Rakowitz

Michael Rakowitz, The invisible enemy should not exist (cylinder seals) (detail), 2022

We are pleased to announce the acquisition of Michael Rakowitz's The invisible enemy should not exist (cylinder seals) (2022), by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia.

The invisible enemy should not exist is an ongoing project centering on threatened, destroyed, and missing cultural heritage. Michael Rakowitz began this work in 2007, reappearing artifacts looted from the National Museum of Iraq in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003. Drawing from a database of reference images and information, the sculptures are constructed using papier-mâché made of Arabic-English newspapers and West Asian food packaging found in diasporic grocery stores in Chicago. The invisible enemy should not exist is a translation of “Aj ibur shapu,” the name of the Processional Way that ran through Nebuchadnezzar’s Ishtar Gate in Babylon.

Existing on an intimate scale, cylinder seals were small stone objects that were rolled out onto wet clay to create an impression. They are linked to the invention of cuneiform writing on clay and were used as signatures, worn around the neck as jewelry, and served as amulets. Before the Iraq Museum’s looting, the collection of seals was over 15,000.

Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973, New York) is the recipient of the 2020 Nasher Prize, the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (Visual Arts category), a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. He was awarded the Fourth Plinth commission (2018-2020) in London’s Trafalgar Square.

His works are featured in major private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Van Abbemuseum, Endhoven, Netherlands; The British Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Kabul National Museum, Afghanistan; UNESCO, Paris; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; Art Jameel Collection, Dubai, UAE and Tate, London, UK.

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