Mosul Museum reopens with contemporary art display following ISIS destruction

The museum opening has been seen as 'proof that war didn't kill Mosul'

Mosul's celebrated museum has not recovered since Islamic State group jihadists ravaged its ancient treasures several years ago, but part of the complex reopened on Tuesday to showcase more contemporary art.

For the first time since ISIS overran the Iraqi city in 2014, visitors could wander the grandiose royal reception hall, which forms part of the museum.

The building is considered the oldest government complex in Mosul and was recently renovated to host the 29-artist exhibit, titled Return to Mosul, a member of the organising Al-Ghad Radio station revealed. It will run until February 3.

The widely-admired Mosul Museum is the second largest museum in Iraq, second to the National Museum of Iraq, located in Baghdad.

The northern Iraqi city served as ISIS's brutal seat of power for three years, before Iraqi troops recaptured it in 2017.

Much of Mosul's east has made a modest recovery, but the west – home to the Old City and the museum – remains in ruins.

The exhibit was "proof that war didn't kill Mosul and that, on the contrary, it's living a full-on renaissance," said Huda Hani, a 25-year-old visitor on Tuesday.

Buttoned up in warm jackets, families walked through the hall to look at the paintings and sculptures, many of which feature themes of home, return, or conflict.

The rest of the museum, however, remains closed for security reasons, said its director Zeid Saadallah.

"You have to protect what is left," he told AFP.

During its bloody reign over Mosul, ISIS released a video of its jihadists attacking the museum with sledgehammers and pneumatic drills, destroying priceless pre-Islamic artefacts that it considered insulting to religion.

The damaged pieces including two imposing lamassu statues, Assyrian winged bulls with human faces.

ISIS also blew up the Assyrian city of Nimrud, the ancient city of Hatra, and the centuries-old desert city of Palmyra in neighbouring Syria.

But in addition to destroying artefacts, the jihadist group trafficked valuable pieces to finance its activities.

In partnership with Google, 3-D printer BQ, and other organisations, Mosul's artists and technicians are looking to print three-dimensional versions of the smashed pieces.

And ALIPH, a heritage-focused project led by France the the UAE, has dedicated $480,000 (Dh1.7m) to help in the first phase of the museum's reconstruction.