Regarded as one of Iraq’s greatest painters, Dia al-Azzawi started his artistic career in 1964, after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad and completing a degree in archaeology from Baghdad University in 1962. In 1969, Azzawi (with Rafa Nasiri, Mohammad Muhriddin, Ismail Fattah, Hachem al-Samarchi and Saleh al-Jumaie) formed the New Vision group (al-Ru’yya al-Jadidah), uniting fellow artists ideologically and culturally as opposed to stylistically. Through his involvement with the New Vision group Azzawi found inspiration in contemporary subjects and issues, particularly the plight of Palestinians. He was also briefly a member of Shakir Hassan Al Said’s One Dimension group (Jama’t al-Bu’d al-Wahid). From 1968–76, Azzawi was the director of the Iraqi Antiquities Department in Baghdad. He has lived in London since 1976, where he served as art advisor to the city’s Iraqi Cultural Centre, from 1977–80. Azzawi’s move to London led him to rediscover book art (dafater), an art form that he has encouraged other artists from Iraq and the region to explore. As well as his painting practice, Azzawi also works in sculpture, tapestry and printmaking.
Azzawi’s artwork has been exhibited worldwide including a comprehensive retrospective held at Mathaf, Doha in 2016. His work has been collected by numerous prestigious museums and institutions including Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; British Museum, London; Colas Foundation; Foundation ONA, Casablanca; Calouste Gulbenkian Collection, Lisbon; Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, Amman; Kinda Foundation, Riyadh; Library of Congress, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), Los Angeles; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad; Museum of Modern Art, Damascus; Museum of Modern Art, Tunis; Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah; Tate Modern, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The World Bank, Washington, D.C.