During the Gulf War of 1990, the Kuwaiti sculptor Sami Mohammad developed an irregular heartbeat. One of the most prominent artists of his generation, Mohammad had become famous for a series of emotionally charged works in bronze, marble and plaster – such as “Hunger,” “The Challenge” and “The Rush” – which conveyed tragedy and resilience in the modeled, chiseled exertion of strained, sculpted bodies.
He was less known for his unabashedly nationalistic sculptures of the 11th and 12th emirs of Kuwait – Sheikh Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah and his brother Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah – but those were precisely the works that made his heart jump on hearing the news that Iraq was invading his country.
Iraqi soldiers were hunting for a Kuwaiti sculptor to make a statue of their then-president, Saddam Hussein. Like few others, Mohammad had the experience and expertise to do it.
“I feared I’d be caught and was haunted by images of me working on [the] statue,” he told an interviewer earlier this year.
If the Iraqi soldiers found him, and he refused to do the job, they would kill him, he recalled. If he complied, the Kuwaitis would kill him. Mohammad couldn’t win. His heart froze. Like so many others pushed or compelled into exile, he collapsed with anxiety and escaped.
This is just one of the many strange, sad and wonderful stories woven into the subtle body of Kuwait’s first-ever national pavilion for the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest and most prestigious exhibition of international art, which opened its doors to the public last week and remains on view for the next six months.
Read full article : Lebanon News // The Daily Star: Taking Venice for the World