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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Michael Rakowitz: Nimrud


Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College / Clinton / Art

The Northwest Palace in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud (a location that is near Mosul in present-day Iraq) was constructed by King Ashurnasirpal II between 883 and 859 B.C. Discovered in the mid 1800s by the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard, the palace entrances were guarded by mighty sculptures of winged bulls and lions, and its interior walls were lined with magnificent bas reliefs. Much of this treasure, including the guardians, is now in Western museums. Five years ago, in Iraq, ISIS destroyed the palace and its remaining art. Enter Michael Rakowitz, a Chicago-based, Iraqi-American artist and scholar. His goal is to slowly recreate the entire palace, and to this end the Wellin Museum has commissioned Room H from him. Instead of gypsum and alabaster, however, Rakowitz makes his reliefs and sculptures with the packaging from Middle Eastern food products imported to the U.S. His genies and winged guardians are as detailed as the ancient originals, but they are also colorful commentary on history, modernity, appropriation, and loss. —L.J.

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