Exhibiting worldwide including at dOCUMENTA, MoMA PS1, and Palais de Tokyo, Michael Rakowitz is an Iraqi-American artist who is known for his conceptual practice. He often creates sculptures and installations that converge critical thinking with provocation, often investigating historical narratives and current affairs.Read More
The artist currently lives and works in Chicago, America.
Rakowitz was born in 1973 in Great Neck, New York. In 1995, he graduated with a BFA from Purchase College in New York. Shortly after, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, America where he completed a Master of Science in Visual Studies.
Michael Rakowitz is interested in understanding common humanity and the precariousness of cultures in contemporary society. His installations and public projects initiate an important dialogue between artist and audience. By examining current events and engaging in fact-finding, the artist establishes valuable exchanges among individuals from different social, cultural and political backgrounds.
After receiving his Masters in 1998, Rakowitz established a project titled paraSITE (1998-ongoing). The project creates and distributes custom inflatable structures designed for homeless people across various urban sites in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston and Cambridge.
The structures are designed to attach to the exterior vents of a building's heating or ventilation system. The warm air leaving the building inflates and heats Rakowitz's structures, providing warmth and shelter for homeless people across the east coast of America. paraSITE is made in consultation with the homeless people who occupy the inflatable homes.
Rakowitz's artistic practice often contemplates his Iraqi-Jewish heritage. In his project RETURN (2004-ongoing), Rakowitz offered a drop-box service to those wishing to send objects and goods to recipients in Iraq free of charge—a rare opportunity during a time when trade infrastructure had collapsed as a result of the Iraq War.
The project developed into a multipart enterprise, with Rakowitz's importation of Iraqi dates into the United States becoming the main feature. The project demonstrates a wealth of culture prevailing in a country experiencing a time of intense difficulty.
The invisible enemy should not exist (2007-ongoing) is a project that investigates details about archaeological artefacts stolen from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad after the US invasion in April 2003. Rakowitz considers where the artefacts are now and the sequence of events that led them to their current whereabouts.
Rakowitz portrays Iraq's stolen artefacts through a collection of sculptures made from Arabic newspapers, Middle Eastern food packaging and cardboard. Rakowitz's reference to Iraq's cultural relics is a gesture of remembrance. By reconstructing over 7000 of Iraq's precious objects, Rakowitz is prompting important conversations among a diverse range of groups and institutions.
In 2018, Rakowitz was commissioned to create a sculpture for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London.
Titled The invisible enemy should not exist (Lamassu of Nineveh) (2018), Rakowitz's work reconstructs the stone statue Lamassu—a winged bull with human features that guards the gates of the ancient city Nineveh. Destroyed in 2015 by ISIS militants, Rakowitz recreates the lost sculpture using more than 10,000 empty Iraqi date syrup cans.
Michael Rakowitz has exhibited work at dOCUMENTA in Kassel, the Abu Dhabi Art Fair and the Istanbul Biennial. In 2020, Rakowitz was awarded the Nasher Prize from the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.
Rakowitz's work is included in collections at the British Museum in London, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Neue Galerie in Kassel, the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul and the Tate Modern in London.
Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Michael Rakowitz has exhibited widely.
Select solo exhibitions include April is the cruellest month, Turner Contemporary, Margate (2021); The invisible enemy should not exist (Room F, section 1, Northwest Palace of Nimrud), Jane Lombard Gallery, New York (2020); Imperfect Binding, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Turin (2019-20); Michael Rakowitz, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2019); The Ballad of Special Ops Cody and other stories, Barbara Wien Gallery, Berlin (2018); Backstroke of the West, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2017-18); The Artists Experiment Series, Museum of Modern Art, New York City (2015).
Select group exhibitions include Les Flammes, Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris, Paris (2021-22); Our World is Burning, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2020); I Am Ashurbanipal King Of The World, King Of Assyria, British Museum, London (2018-19); der grosse Anspruch des kleinen Bildes, Barbara Wien Gallery, Berlin (2018-19); For us, the living, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2018); Fourth Plinth Shortlist Exhibition, National Gallery, London (2017).
Michael Rakowitz's website can be found here.
Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2021