Founded in 1972 on an initiative of the former Ministry of Culture, Al Wasiti Plastic Art Festival was on hiatus in the 1990s, only to resurface in 2010 for one performance. It has been held annually since 2017, except for 2019 and 2021, when it was postponed due to Iraq demonstrations.
The festival bears the name of the artist Yahya bin Mahmoud Al Wasiti; Al Wasiti was a painter and calligrapher from the mid 13th century AD. He founded the Rafidain School of painting in the 13th century. The Baghdad Modern Art Movement was inspired by his style.