Michael Rakowitz

  • Michael-Rakowitz_Panel

    Michael Rakowitz, The invisible enemy should not exist (Northwest palace of Nimrud, Room N), 2018 (detail), 13 Reliefs: Middle Eastern packaging and newspapers, glue, cardboard, wood, dims variable. Courtesy of the artist

Past Exhibition

This exhibition was on 4 Jun – 25 Aug 2019

Michael Rakowitz

4 June – 25 August 2019

‘Stick around, you might learn something – and find yourself moved, and angered, and overwhelmed…’ **** The Guardian

‘So much here is a poignant evocation of the precariousness of cultures. Yet there’s abundant poetry, too: Rakowitz underscores our ultimate common humanity.’  **** Evening Standard

‘It’s a real skill to take such rich histories, cultures, art and architecture and present them so that they are accessible, and also leave a lasting impact on visitors. It’s a skill that Michael Rakowitz has clearly mastered.’ **** Londonist

‘For Rakowitz, explosive destruction punctuates history: it’s up to us to try and piece together what it all means.’ **** Time Out

‘…delicate, intelligent, and just.’ The Telegraph

Standing on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth is a human headed winged bull reconstructed from an Assyrian statue by American-Iraqi artist Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973). Sculptor, detective and occasional chef, he takes his cue from historic buildings and artefacts to create enthralling environments.

Rakowitz’s first European survey show begins with Dull Roar (2005) an inflatable tower block inspired by a 1950s high rise estate in Missouri that aspired to end poverty but ended in demolition. Opposite this poignant monument stands an Aboriginal community’s response to poor housing; working with the artist they recycled their derelict homes into a model of Tatlin’s Tower.

Creativity from destruction also characterises What Dust Will Rise (2012). Working with Afghan artisans, Rakowitz honours Jewish and German libraries destroyed in World War II by carving stone books from the ruins of the Bamiyan Buddhas. Recouping other lost histories, he uses ephemera from The Beatles in The Break-Up (2010) to parallel two unrealised dreams: the group’s plan to play in Jerusalem and peace in the Middle East. A flotilla of plaster casts created by Armenian craftsmen in 1900s Istanbul
celebrates their artistry while revealing their dark fate; brightly coloured date syrup cans are used to recreate ancient artefacts destroyed or looted after the US Iraq invasion; and an American toy soldier features as the hero of Rakowitz’s film about Iraq’s Mosul Museum. The show ends with a flying installation of buildings imagined by the people of Budapest and their visions of a hopeful future.

Spotlight Tours
Ticket-holders are invited to join a free tour of the Michael Rakowitz exhibition, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 3pm. The tours will start outside Gallery 1 and will focus on one artwork or gallery space in the exhibition, and last 15-20 minutes.


Related events


Michael Rakowitz: (G)hosting

Sat 6 Jul, 2.30pm
£9.50/£7.50 concs

An afternoon of discussions exploring concepts of history, cultural heritage, appropriation and postcolonial displacements. With Michael Rakowitz, Gareth Brereton and Eleanor Robson.

Book now


Michael Rakowitz: Breakups

Thu 18 Jul, 7pm
£9.50/£7.50 concs

Fascinated with The Beatles, Michael  Rakowitz revisits his 2010 project ‘The Breakup’, in conversation with historian Mark Lewisohn and writer Arsalan Mohammad.

Book now

Credit Jade Nina Sarkhel-20

Iraqi Feast with Michael Rakowitz and Philip Juma

Fri 26 Jul, From 6pm
£55 + drinks

An Iraqi Feast with artist Michael Rakowitz and chef Philip Juma of Juma Kitchen.

Book now

Find out more

Read the press release

Co-organised with Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin:
7 October 2019 – 19 January 2020

Touring to Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai:
12 March – 30 August 2020

Supported by:

Exhibition circle:
Dena Foundation
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Elie Khouri
Jane Lombard Gallery
Shelby White

Education programme:
The season’s education and community programmes are generously supported by the Mayor of London’s Fourth Plinth Programme, one of London’s foremost public sculpture sites and home to Michael Rakowitz’s The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist through March 2020