Youssef Nabil

Youssef Nabil

I Saved My Belly Dancer

February 3 - March 5, 2016

Youssef Nabil, I Saved My Belly Dancer #XIII (detail), 2015, hand coloured gelatin silver print

Youssef Nabil

Time of Transformation

April 24 - June 12, 2013

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Youssef Nabil - Time of Transformation

The Third Line is pleased to present internationally acclaimed artist Youssef Nabil’s fourth solo show in Dubai, which premieres the New York based Egyptian artist’s latest body of work. Working with his characteristic technique of hand painted silver gelatin photographs, Nabil introduces us to three new series that reflect upon the clash of archetypes that define the state of his present day home country. 

This new body of work explores notions of transition and change as Nabil reflects upon an Egypt that is rapidly transforming and acquiring new ideals that he is unfamiliar with. An alien disconnect that has much more to do with the changing landscape than his physical absence, Nabil presents ephemeral imagery that he feels will soon be lost forever.

The Veiled Women series features women from the fields of art, music and cinema, all adorning the Mediterranean veil. In these portraits, Nabil ruminates about meanings associated with the veil now and how it was once worn in the Mediterranean cultures. By reincarnating the idea of the veil he loved, Nabil provides an allegory that is in sharp contrast to its connotation in the present day. The portraits echo a loss of innocence and the assimilation of new ideals that delineate between sex and religion.

In The Last Dance series, change is explored through the medium of dance. Multiple images of belly dancers caught in whirling movements make up a kaleidoscopic visual frenzy. While the images are sensual in nature, it is the association of the ‘sexual’ with this art form that is now threatening its survival in Egypt. The slow disappearance of these belly dancers is significant of a new cultural identity that is following political shifts in the Egyptian mindsets.

The Transformation panels look at the subtle change in the subject through seven stages. Almost staged as dramatic renditions of reactionary expressions, the work addresses how the artist is personally grappling with, and responding to, the transformations that are taking place within him.

Group Show


September 12 - October 27, 2011


Artists: Abbas Akhavan, Huda Lutfi, Arwa Abouon, Amir H. Fallah, Fouad Elkoury, Farhad Moshiri, Hassan Hajjaj, Laleh Khorramian, Slavs and Tatars, Susan Hefuna, Youssef Nabil

To begin the fall season, The Third Line invites guest curator Rami Farook to continue a conversation about the state of the world today. Comprising of works from The Third Line, Traffic and The Farook Collection and exhibiting at the two spaces, the show attempts to question and discuss the state of the contemporary environment through artistic representations depicting social behavior, ecology and psychology.

THE STATE: SOCIAL / ANTISOCIAL? is inspired by and, a continuation from, previous shows at Traffic also titled ‘the state’. This exhibition resumes a dialogue explored earlier in shows held at Traffic: THE STATE(2010), the inaugural exhibition, questioned the socio-political state post September 11; anTHE STATE: UPPERS & DOWNERS(2011) ran a commentary on the global condition, from an economic perspective, with the city of Dubai as a focal point. This third installment of investigation combines works from the collection of The Third Line, Traffic and The Farook Collection, and is exhibited at both galleries to connect the conversations previously limited to one physical space. 

Youssef Nabil

I will go to Paradise

March 12 - April 16, 2009

I Will Go To Paradise

The third solo exhibition of photographs by artist Youssef Nabil refers to a misplaced nostalgia of a past era. The works are composed of his signature re-appropriation hand colouring technique of black and white photographs.

I will go to Paradise encapsulates loose references to selected moments from the artist’s life. Nabil views his life as a movie and the captured images are certainly cinematic in their compositions and allusions to narrative.

As the title of the exhibition suggests, I will go to Paradise,builds on Nabil’s obsession with and acceptance of death. In these liminal scenes he lingers between worldly realities and serene dreams, loneliness and fame, tinged with sex and death.

Youssef Nabil

I won't let you die

November 19, 2008 - March 12, 2009

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The Third Line presents Youssef Nabil's latest artist book, I won't let you die, published by Hatje Cantz (Germany). The book was launched at the The Third Line booth during the 2008 artparis-Abudhabi art fair. 

The book features text by the artist himself, as well as an extended essay from art critic and curator Octavio Zaya.  It also includes conversations between the artist and three of his former subjects: Shirin Neshat, Ghada Amer, and legendary Egyptian actress Faten Hamama. With 272 pages and 137 illustrations in color, this is the first comprehensive presentation of Nabil's photographs of artists, his friends, and himself, and images staged over the past fifteen years.

Youssef Nabil

Youssef Nabil

May 08 - July 01, 2008


To inaugurate The Third Line, Doha a solo exhibition of photographs by artist Youssef Nabil from May 8 – July 1, 2008 opened the new galley space in Qatar.  This exhibition is made possible with the support of Deutsche Bank.

Many famous artists have been Nabil’s subject in the following years including Tracey Emin, Natacha Atlas, Paulo Coelho, Nan Goldin, Kate Moss, David Lynch and Louise Bourgeois: each sitter's story being told through Nabil’s black and white photographs which are painstakingly hand coloured with dream-like dewed tones.

At the age of 35, Nabil has established himself as one of the most influential photographers of his generation. Growing up in the cinematic Cairo, Youssef was intoxicated with the golden age of its stars. His works draw inspiration from his childhood memories of black and white films filled with glamour, elegance and melodrama.

Youssef Nabil

Portraits, Self-Portraits

February 24 - March 15, 2007

Portraits Selfportraits

Youssef Nabil's long awaited solo show at The Third Line is finally here. With his unmistakable style, Nabil shoots his subjects bare of any make-up on high contrast black and white film to then meticulously apply the necessary maquillage manually onto the prints. 

Utilising this old hand coloring method commercially used in the 30's, Nabil creates seductive eye candy prints that always seem to walk a thin line between contrived superficiality and an eerily penetrating gaze into the "characters" photographed. Equally recognizable is Nabil's subject matter: displaced nostalgic retro and quirky sexual cliche applied to diva-esque figures like Fifi Abdou, Samira Said and Laila Elwy as well as an array of regional and international art icons such as Ghada Amer, Sherin Neshat, Nan Goldin, Tracey Emin...and of course himself. 

Nabil reveals himself to be tapped into, as well as a product of a globalized circulation of images and culture. We find ourselves exposed as voyeurs witnessing the aftermath of ambiguously deviant sexual acts, or sharing a window view with a seemingly unaware subject from over his/her shoulder.

Youssef Nabil


September 23, 2005 - October 14, 2005


At a young age, Nabil discovered works by Egyptian-Armenian studio photographer Van Leo who during the 1940s and 1950s took portraits of famous homegrown personalities, from politicians to singers. 

Today, Nabil weaves this homage into intimately captured portraits of both Egyptian and Internationally acclaimed artists, belly dancers, fashion designers and actors. His hand coloured photographs take on dream like tones transporting the viewer back in time to the age of golden cinema.