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Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011

November 3, 2019–March 1, 2020


MoMA PS1 presents a large-scale group exhibition examining the legacies of American-led military engagement in Iraq beginning with the Gulf War in 1991. Through more than 250 works, Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 explores the effects of these wars on artists based in Iraq and its diasporas, as well as those responding to the war from the West. Featuring the work of over 80 artists and collectives, Theater of Operations will be on view across the entire MoMA PS1 building from November 3, 2019 through March 1, 2020.

American-led military engagement in Iraq over the last 30 years has had an indelible impact on contemporary culture and the work of artists around the world. While brief, the 1991 Gulf War marked the start of a prolonged conflict with Iraq that led to more than a decade of sanctions and the 2003 Iraq War. These wars and their aftermaths have had devastating impacts on Iraq  and its people, contributing to the destabilization of the broader Middle East. Conflict with Iraq has also become an enduring part of American life, influencing culture, politics, and identity.

The artists in Theater of Operations were also impacted by significant cultural change during this period—including the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, the Internet, and new media and military technologies. The wide range of perspectives included in this exhibition also attests to the rich artistic traditions of contemporary Iraq, with artists working under conditions of war, embargo, and occupation placed in conversation with those responding to these wars from afar.

Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011 is organized by Peter Eleey, Chief Curator, and Ruba Katrib, Curator, MoMA PS1.


Major support for Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011 is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Generous funding is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, an anonymous donor, Dana Farouki, Tony and Elham Salamé, Barjeel Art Foundation, Darat al Funun-The Khalid Shoman Foundation, and Rana Sadik and Samer Younis.

Additional support is provided by the MoMA PS1 Annual Exhibition Fund.


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Afifa Aleiby. Gulf War. 1991. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2” (100 x 70 cm). Courtesy the artist

Jamal Penjweny. Work from the series Saddam is Here. 2010. Photograph. 23 2/3 × 31 1/2″ (60 × 80 cm). Courtesy the artist

Sue Coe. Bomb Shelter. 1991. Photo-etching on white heavyweight Rives, 9 5/8 × 10 1/2″ (24.4 × 26.7 cm). Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York. Copyright © 1990 Sue Coe

Monira Al Qadiri. Behind the Sun. 2013. Video (color, sound). 10 min. Courtesy the artist

Thuraya Al-Baqsami. The Last Shot. 1991. Pastel and acrylic on paper, 19 11/16 x 23 5/8” (50 x 60 cm). Courtesy the artist

Dia al-Azzawi. War Diary No. 1. 1991. Gouache and charcoal on paper, 28 pages, 12 5/8 x 9 1/2” (32 x 24 cm). Courtesy the artist

Harun Farocki. War at a Distance. 2003. Video (color, sound). 58 min. The Museum of Modern Art. Committee on Film Funds. © 2019 Harun Farocki Filmproduktion

Michel Auder. Gulf War TV War (still). 1991 (Edited 2017). Hi8 video and mini-DV transferred to digital video. 102 min. Courtesy the artist and Martos Gallery, New York

Himat M. Ali. Al Mutanabbi Street Baghdad. 2007. Mixed media on paper;
12 bound books in wooden slipcase, Each: 13 3/8 × 9 13/16″ (34 × 25 cm). Courtesy the artist and Azzawi Collection, London. Photo: Anthony Dawton

Guerrilla Girls. Estrogen Bomb. 2003–2017. Poster. 24 × 24″ (61 × 61 cm). Courtesy the artists

Hanaa Malallah. Baghdad City: US Map. 2007. Mixed media (ink, collage, burning, and tape on wood) 20 7/8 × 21 5/8″ (53 × 55 cm). Courtesy the artist and Azzawi Collection, London. Photo: Anthony Dawton

Nuha Al-Radi. Portrait of Zain Habboo. 1995. Painted metal canister and rock, 10 × 6″ (25.4 × 15.2 cm). Collection Aysar Akrawi. Photo: Kris Graves

Shakir Hassan Al Said. Wall #1. 1991. Oil on wood panel. 25 3/16 × 17 11/16″ (64 × 45 cm). Courtesy Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah

Martha Rosler. Lounging Woman from House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series. 2004. Photomontage. 24 × 20″ (60.9 × 50.8 cm). Courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York