Basharat Bashir

Tarek Al-Ghoussein

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Featured Artist

Born in 1962 Tarek Al-Ghoussein was a Kuwati multi-displenary artist who pursued the intersection of landscape photography, self-portraiture and performance art. He in his work moves away from land, belonging, nostalgia and boundaries to explore metaphorical ideas transit to his ancestral homeland – Palestine.

Tarek was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents who had been displaced from their ancestral homeland in Ramleh, Palestine. His father, was a well-known Kuwaiti journalist, editor, and diplomat who served as Kuwait’s Ambassador to the United States in the 1960s. Throughout his childhood, his family moved frequently between Kuwait, the United States, Morocco, and Japan. In 1985, he completed a BFA in Photography at New York University followed by an MA from the University of New Mexico in 1989.After initially pursuing a career in journalism and documentary photography, he soon turned to art photography. He taught photography at the American University of Sharjah, and was a professor at the New York University branch in Abu Dhabi at the time of his death.

As an artist, Tarek Al-Ghoussein includes himself into his performance pictures. His use of space and the resonant silence in his pieces make them remarkable. He faces the broad desert, the seascapes, and the walls with his back to the audience. He conveys a sense of place and displacement in addition to a documentary instinct. His funny and stirring images reflect the Middle East’s environment, recognisable items, and deserted areas.Through his work, Tarek examined his personal concerns connected to his Palestinian identity which has been bought over the years by the Guggenheim Museum and British Museum among others. In an effort to question how Palestinians are portrayed in the media and highlight the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the physical and cultural difficulties it causes; he occasionally used to portray the traditional Palestinian scarf known as a Keffiyeh.

Aside from his self-portraiture series, dating back to 2002, Tarekhdocumented various other themes in recent years. Some of his notable projects include photographing all of the 250 islands of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and a soon-to-be demolished Kuwaiti housing development and the remnants left behind by its multi-ethnic inhabitants.

Tarek was one of the first artists to join the Third Line Gallery, a space in Dubai that collaborates with ground-breaking Emirati and Middle Eastern artists. These artists include the Egyptian photographer Youssef Nabil, the Iraqi artist HayvKahraman, the Iranian artists Farhad Moshiri and the late Monir Farmanfarmanian, the Lebanese photographers Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, among many others.

Tarek participated in the Sharjah Biennial in 2003 and 2005 and represented Kuwait at the Venice Biennale’s 55th International Art Exhibition. 2009 saw a retrospective of his work at the Sharjah Art Museum. Numerous organisations and museums have bought his works, including the Smithsonian in Washington, DC; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the British Museum in London; the Mathaf Museum in Doha; and the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, among others.

Tarek died in New York on 11 June 2022 at the age of 60, leaving behind unparalleled legacy. Many of the region’s respected cultural figures and organizations took to Instagram to pay condolences and share memories of the late artist including the UAE’s Minister of Culture NouraAlKaabi and Sharjah Biennial director Hoor Al Qasimi, who wrote: “Rest in Peace dearest Tarek, thank you for inspiring generations of young artists, for being part of our journey and for your friendship. You will be sorely missed.”

Sharjah Art Foundation wrote on their Instagram post“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Tarek Al Ghoussein and offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends and the community.

Al Ghoussein has lived and worked in the UAE over the past twenty years, having been a professor at the American University of Sharjah and more recently at NYU Abu Dhabi. He has exhibited extensively in the region and internationally and we are honoured to have been able to work with him on numerous occasions. In addition to a mid-career retrospective of Al Ghoussein’s work in 2009, his work was shown at Sharjah Biennial 6 and 7 and is a part of the Foundation’s Collection”.

In another post shared by Art Dubai on their Instagram page mourning the untimely death of the artist, “Today we mourn the loss of Tarek Al-Ghoussein, a Kuwaiti artist of Palestinian origin, best known for his work that investigates the margins between landscape photography, self-portraiture and performance art. Tarek resided in the UAE for the last 25 years where in addition to his valuable contributions to the art landscape, he was also the Director of the MFA in Media and Art program and Professor of Visual Arts at New York University, Abu Dhabi”.

The post further read “We offer our condolences to his family and loved ones.May his legacy as one of the most inspiring UAE based artist and mentor continue to live on”.

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