Contemporary Art Installations

Finding news ways to connect visitors to the ancient past

ISAC collaborates with internationally recognized contemporary artists to present new works inspired by the ISAC Museum's collection. Below are details on both present and past exhibitions. 

Michael Rakowitz (2019–ongoing)

As part of his series The invisible enemy should not exist, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz has collaborated with the ISAC Museum to create a reappearance of a relief from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud, destroyed by Isis in 2015. Integrating an ancient fragment from the ISAC Museum collection, his piece uses contemporary Middle Eastern newspapers and packaging from northern Iraqi foods. On display in the ISAC Museum Assyrian Galleries. 

Rakowitz is an artist living and working in Chicago. His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th and 14th Istanbul Biennials, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, and Transmediale 05. He has had solo projects and exhibitions with Creative Time, Tate Modern in London, MCA Chicago, Lombard Freid Gallery in New York, Galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago and Kunstraum Innsbruck. He is the recipient of the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO. He was awarded the Fourth Plinth commission in London’s Trafalgar Square, on view through 2020. A survey of his work is on view at Whitechapel Gallery in London and will travel to Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Torino in 2019 and The Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai in 2020. Rakowitz is Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.



Maybe we Iraqis felt hurt when we saw our monuments displayed outside of Iraq. We get hurt because it's our civilization… I wasn't as devastated when they (ISIS) destroyed my house or when they killed some of my relatives because this is life — all of us die. But Nimrud was like a part of our family. This heritage was part of our lives, part of all of Iraq.

Sheikh Khalid al-Jabbouri

Mohamad Hafez (2019–2022)

Syrian artists and architect Mohamad Hafez exhibited works at the ISAC Museum including Hiraeth and Collateral Damage. His works and associated public programming as the OI’s first interpreter-in-residence explored the links between the loss of ancient artifacts in the Middle East and contemporary loss of human life and human suffering in Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Exhibited in the Mesopotamian Gallery September 2019–December 2023. 

Hafez is an interdisciplinary artist and architect born in Syria, raised in Saudi Arabia and educated in the Midwestern United States. A self-taught sculptor, Hafez uses his expertise as a licensed AIA architect as well as his lived experience of Damascus’s rich built environment to create poetic streetscapes high in fidelity and charged in content. His mixed-media sculptural compilations of objects anchor uneasy conversations, stimulating deeper audience engagement on contentious topics like torture and prisoner abuse, child starvation in Africa, or the ongoing global refugee crisis. Hafez studied at Damascus University and Northern Illinois University before earning his B.Arch. at Iowa State University in 2009. Hafez began practicing sculpture shortly after coming to the U.S. in 2003, out of homesickness and nostalgia provoked by prohibitive Bush-era NSEERS travel restrictions. Hafez has exhibited at The Brooklyn Museum, UNICEF House, NYC; Orlando Museum of Art, Florida; Yale Art Gallery, New Haven; and Contemporary Art Platform, Kuwait, among others. He has received national attention in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Boston Globe, AJ+, Global Citizen, The Guardian, and NPR. Hafez is currently full-time with the firm Pickard Chilton and was Project Lead Designer on the 2017 50-story, 1.5 million GSF office tower 609 Main in downtown Houston, TX. Hafez is the recipient of a 2018 Connecticut Arts Hero Award for his extensive and continuous body of work on issues such as the Syrian civil war, the worldwide refugee crisis, and an overall desire to counter hate speech.He serves as a 2018 Yale University Silliman College Fellow and artist-in-residence at the Keller Center of Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago.


The fabric I use in my laundry lines, called aghabanni, comes from Syria. In my last trip before the war, I asked a textile merchant to give me some of his scrap fabrics. Each little piece is attached somehow to a nostalgic memory of something.

Mohamad Hafez

Ann Hamilton (2019)

Ann Hamilton, recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, created a new large-scale installation in the Grand Reading Room of UChicago’s Joe and Rika Mansueto Library for her project aeon, affixing to the room’s massive glass dome a series of translucent images of ISAC artifacts that she produced using a small flatbed desktop scanner and a handheld wand scanner. After several thousand years entombed underground, and nearly a century enclosed in the ISAC Museum's display cases, the ancient figures are illuminated and “animated” through Hamilton’s ethereal images. Exhibited September 18–December 15, 2019. 

Read further about aeon. 


The liveness of the object draws us toward it, makes a connection, sparks curiosity.

Ann Hamilton