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Dalloul Art Foundation

ALI TALIB, Iraq (1944)


Born in 1944 in Basra, Iraq, Ali Talib spent his entire childhood and adolescence in his home city before moving to Baghdad in the early 1960s, where he was part of the first batch of students...


Born in 1944 in Basra, Iraq, Ali Talib spent his entire childhood and adolescence in his home city before moving to Baghdad in the early 1960s, where he was part of the first batch of students joining the newly opened Academy of Fine Arts. Talib had come from a strict, traditional family, experiencing many restrictions during his early life.[1] On the basement walls of his family home, he found drawing as a way to express his frustrated emotions, creating a connection between his internal world and his external expression. While still a student, his initial artistic experiments developed, with the artist exploring ways in which to manifest his inner thoughts and struggles on canvas, eventually finding solace in mysterious and cryptic signs and symbols as a form of communication, often inspired by the rich ancient and folkloric visual traditions found in Iraq.

The 1960s were an interesting time for young artists in Iraq. Rejuvenated by the achievements of the Pioneers generation and other art groups, alongside increasing international interactions with European professors at the Academy and local artists returning from their scholarships abroad, as well as rising Arab nationalist activism, artists were living through a period of creative upheaval.[2] In 1965, he and other students formed a group called The Innovationists, a collective focused on progressive expression, not limiting themselves to any medium or topic. They held their first exhibition at Baghdad’s National Museum of Modern Art that year, and a second, in 1966, graduating the same year. Talib then moved back to Basra, continuing to paint his sensitive compositions, laced with a combination of darkness and dreamlike magic. 

Whilst in Basra, he formed The Shadow group with local artists, all united in the vision that “art is a reflection of reality; art is the shadow of reality”,[3] holding their first exhibition in Basra in 1969. The group didn’t last long, but Talib took part in numerous other exhibitions and festivals, and became an instructor at the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1975. In 1976 he had a solo exhibition in Baghdad,[4] a turning point not just for his career but also for his artistic style. The dreamlike, mysterious world remained on his canvases, but Talib brought in a personal, human touch with dramatic – yet delicate – faces, masks, hands and other subtle features. Two artworks from 1976 in the DAF Collection clearly show this development, with striking figures at odds with the barren atmosphere surrounding them, simultaneously quietly introspective and boldly expressive. These cinematic portraits are just some of Talib’s many dark, theatrical compositions, all, exploring the intricacies and inner conflicts encased within the human form. 

“Heads, palms and fingers remain basic units of the artistic vision in Ali Talib’s logic…we cannot grasp his artistic concerns without this humanistic rooting, to the extent that in some of his paintings, he reduces the finger to a tip or the eye to a tear. This external point of departure at first glance, stems from the foundation of self expression; or that this vision, at its core, is a unique subjective one.” [5] Shakir Hassan Al Said, 1990

Following this period, Talib started a Masters program in Cairo’s Helwan University,[6] graduating in 1980 and later returning to Iraq. Participating in many exhibitions throughout the 1980s at home and abroad, winning prizes and continuing to experiment with his work, Talib – like many Iraqi artists and intellectuals – soon felt the strain of authoritarianism and instability seeping into everyday life, leaving Iraq in 1991 for Jordan, and becoming Professor of Fine Arts at Yarmouk University from 1991-1997.[7]

Talib had developed his own, unique artistic language over many years, but often shifted his chosen medium (experimenting with bronze amongst other materials) and colour palette. Whilst heads, hands and bodies still play a significant role in his work, Talib has explored environments other than the dark world of solitude his subjects formerly existed within. Colours were added, and brighter spaces – although often still bare and desolate – exude warmth not seen in his earlier work. In much of his recent paintings, such as 2009’s Perfume, 2010’s View 2, 2006’s Silver and two other untitled works from 2010 in the DAF Collection, there is an earthy quality to his compositions, abound with raw, rough textures and natural impressions. Additionally, as seen in his untitled 2012 triptych in the DAF collection, extremely bright, vivid tones and intriguing subjects and objects have also found their way into his work. Whilst it is clear that Talib’s oeuvre has developed in many ways, the simplicity and striking balance between object and space has largely remained the same. The cinematic scenes, the slight suggestion of human form, the heads and hearts almost bursting with unspoken emotion – they are all still found in Ali Talib’s work, but the environment has changed, and the mood has, for the most part, been lifted, as though the lost, lonely and suffering humans in his paintings finally found some form of peace.

Ali Talib continues to paint, and now lives between Jordan and the Netherlands.


Selected Solo Exhibitions


Dar al-Funoon, Kuwait


Passion, Karim Gallery, Amman, Jordan
Beyond Boundaries, Karim Gallery, Amman, Jordan


Green Art Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Atassi Gallery, Damascus, Syria


Orfali Gallery, Amman, Jordan


United Nation Humans Settlements Programme, Barcelona, Spain
Glerie Concourt, The Hague, Holland


De Vrije Academie, The Hague, Holland


Riwaq Gallery, Manama, Bahrain


Arts Centre, Manama, Bahrain


Galerie d’Art 50 × 70, Beirut, Lebanon


Balka Art Gallery, Amman, Jordan


Orfali Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq


Al-Riwaq Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq


Exhibition of Paintings, The National Gallery of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


Mubarakia Gallery, Kuwait    

Selected Group Exhibitions


Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011, MoMA PS1, New York, USA
Objects of Imagination: Contemporary Arab Ceramics, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan


A Tribute to Rafa Nasiri, Nabad Art Gallery, Amman, Jordan


Art in Iraq Today: Part IV, Meem Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Mirages: 17 Artists, Centro Cultural Banko do Brazil, Rio de Janeiro & Sao Paulo, Brazil


Iraqi Artists in Exile, Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas, USA


Inaugural Exhibition of the Jordan National Gallery Complex, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan


Cite International des Arts Exhibition, Cite International des Arts Gallery, Paris, France


From the Ocean to the Gulf and Beyond: Arab Contemporary Art, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan


The Outside of the Inside: EU-Man Exhibition, Vienna, Austria; St Petersburg, Russia


EU-Man Exhibition, Helsinki, Finland; Vienna, Austria
Journey through the Contemporary Arts of the Arab World: Mesopotamia/Iraq, Darat al Funoon, Amman, Jordan


Five Iraqi Artists, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Second Sharjah Biennale, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates


Four Iraqi Artists (Group exhibition with Rafa al-Nasiri, Muhammed Muhraddin & Dia Azzawi), Alif Gallery, Washington DC, USA


Four Iraqi Artists, Amman, Jordan


Two Iraqi Artists – joint exhibition with Rafa al-Nasiri, Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, Amman, Jordan


Seven Iraqi Artists – exhibition with Shaker Hassan al Said, Salem al-Dabbagh, Saadi al-Kaabi, Mohammed Muhraddin and Rafa al-Nasiri, Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, Amman, Jordan


Entre le Tigre et l'Euphrate: Art Contemporain Irakien / Between the Tigris and the Euphrates: Contemporary Iraqi Art, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France


Art for Humanity: The Second Baghdad International Festival of Art, Saddam Arts Centre (formerly the National Museum of Modern Art), Baghdad, Iraq
Second International Euro-Asian Arts Biennial, Ankara, Turkey
Three Iraqi Artists, Kuwait


International Poster Exhibition, Grand Palais, France


Salon de Comparaisons, Grand Palais, Paris, France.
The First Baghdad International Festival of Art, Saddam Arts Centre (formerly the National Museum of Modern Art), Baghdad, Iraq


First Cairo International Biennale, Cairo, Egypt


Iraqi Contemporary Art, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan


An Exhibit of Contemporary Iraqi Paintings, USA


Contemporary Iraqi Art, Iraqi Cultural Centre, London, United Kingdom


Contemporary Iraqi Art, Tunis, Tunisia
Exhibition of Contemporary Iraqi Art (as part of Iraqi Cultural Week), Qatar; Kuwait; Bahrain


Contemporary Iraqi Art, Messina, Italy
Contemporary Iraqi Art, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, France
Second Arab Biennale, Rabat, Morocco
Artists Against Racism: Exhibition of the International Solidarity of Visual Artists, IAA-AIAP, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


Seventh Cagne-sur-Mer International Festival, Cagne-sur-Mer, France
The Third Triennale – India, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, India


First Arab Biennale, Baghdad, Iraq
Seven Iraqi Artists, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


Al-Wasiti Festival, Baghdad, Iraq
Contemporary Arab Art, Nicosia, Cyprus


Exhibition of Plastic Arts: Al-Marbad Poetry Festival, Basra, Iraq
Iraqi Art Exhibition, Kuwait


The Second Exhibition of ‘The Shadow’ Group, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


The First Exhibition of ‘The Shadow’ Group, Basra, Iraq    


Second Exhibition of The Innovationists, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq


First Exhibition of The Innovationists, National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad, Iraq
Two Iraqi Artists – joint exhibition with Salim al-Dabbagh, Aya Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq


Graphic Art Exhibition, Aya Gallery, Baghdad, Iraq


Ali Talib. Shakir Hassan Al Said, Dia al-Azzawi, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ingrid Rollema, May Mudaffar and Abdulrahman Munif. Touch Art, 2009

Awards and Honors


First Prize, Second Sharjah Biennale, United Arab Emirates


First Prize, The First Baghdad International Festival of Art, Saddam Arts Centre (formerly the National Museum of Modern Art), Baghdad, Iraq (one of three winners, including Shakir Hassan Al Said and Rafa al-Nasiri).

Affiliations & Memberships


Member of the National Committee for the Plastic Arts


Member, New Vision group


Co-Founding Member, The Shadow group


Co-Founding Member of The Innovationists


Azzawi Collection, London, United Kingdom
Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Hussain Ali Harba Family Collection, Amman, Jordan
Ibrahimi Collection, Amman, Jordan
L’Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman, Jordan
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
Ramzi & Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation (DAF), Beirut, Lebanon
Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas, USA
The World Museum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Summer 96
Darat al funun, English/Arabic, 1996


الفنان علي طالب : سیرة الكائن ومخلوقاتھ
صلاح حیثاني, Arabic, 2014
تشكیل << علي طالب... التماثل البصري والتحول الجدید
محمد العبيدي
طنجة الأدبية, Arabic, 2008
Ali Talib Al Kayyali
Station Museum, English
Ali Talib
Dar Al Funoon Kuwait, English/Arabic, 2010
Ali Talib
May Muzaffar Jabra Ibrahim Jabra
T@uch Art, English/Arabic, 2009
علي : اللغز والرمز
Ali Talib, Arabic
كتاب عن الرسام (علي طالب) : الموت و الحياة... عناصر ما قبل التجريدية
خالد خضير الصالحي, Arabic, 2010
The Daemonic Presence Between Eros and Thanatos
Jabra Ibrahim Jabra
Al Naqid Magazine, English, 1989
A Turmoil Under A Quiet Surface
May Muzaffar
Gilgamesh magazine, English, 1988
جماليات رسوم علي طالب
شاكر حسن السعيد
جريدة الجمهورية, Arabic, 1990
علي طالب .. وحالة التساؤل
عبد الرحمن منيف
مجلة البحرين الثقافية, Arabic, 2001
معرض "الفن في العراق اليوم" في مركز بيروت للمعارض, Arabic, 2011
معرض "كائنات المخيال" للخزف العربي المعاصر في المتحف الوطني الأردني للفنون الجميلة
Ibrahimi Collection, Arabic/English, 2019
Opening Ali Talib, Love and Death
Ingrid Rollema
Ali Talib, English, 2003
Ali Talib.. And The Questioning Situation
Abdulrahman Munif
Ali Talib, English, 2003
معرض الحب وا لموت
لاهاي, Arabic, 2003
الحياة والموت في معرض الفنان علي طالب
عبد الرحمن الماجدي, Arabic, 2003
"تنویعات" العراقي علي طالب في "غرین آرت"
Al Bayan, Arabic, 2008
التشكیلي علي طالب یواصل مجازاتھ التعبیریة من ترنیمة الجسد وترسباتھ الحسیة
غسان مفاضلة
جریدة الغد, Arabic, 2011


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