Iraqi Artist Bassim Al-Shaker’s Phoenix Studio Ransacked

bassim-al-shaker
Bassim Al-Shaker with his works.
Photo: Courtesy the artist, 720.

The studio of Bassim Al-Shaker, one of the Iraqi artists who represented his country at the 2013 Venice Biennale, was robbed on August 18. Al-Shaker, who came to the US in 2013, was eventually granted refugee status, and has been based in Phoenix since, arrived at his studio Monday morning to find its door smashed in and all his art, paints, and furniture gone, 3TV reports. “I’m very surprised, because I’m in America, and for me, America means safety,” he said. “I’m not angry, but I’m very sad.”

Al-Shaker, whose figurative paintings often portray scenes of everyday life in Iraq, was profiled last year in the New York Times shortly after his arrival in the US. Though he worked primarily as a barber in Baghdad, he fled his home country after a brutal beating left him hospitalized for two weeks.

Many of Al-Shaker’s works are currently on view in his solo exhibition, through August 31, at Phoenix’s 720 gallery. Nevertheless, there were nine paintings in his studio, all of which were taken. The artist and officials from the Arizona State University Museum of Art estimate that the stolen canvases were worth $50,000.

Phoenix police don’t have a lot of leads to go on, but hope the works will resurface and be recognized when the thieves attempt to sell them. “It’s something we wouldn’t want that done to anyone,” said Phoenix Police sergeant Steve Martos, “but with all the challenges he’s gone through, we want to find these suspects and arrest them.”


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