Tarek Al-Ghoussein


Tarek Al-Ghoussein was born in Kuwait in 1962. The child of Palestinian exiles, Al-Ghoussein also spent part of his youth in the United States, Morocco and Japan. He received his BFA (Photography) from New York University in 1985 and his MA (Photography) from the University of New Mexico in 1989. Initially working as a documentary photographer and photojournalist, Al-Ghoussein is now an artist, professor and Director of the Master of Fine Arts degree program at NYU Abu Dhabi. 

Al-Ghoussein's work explores the boundaries between landscape photography, self-portraiture and performance art. Evocative photographs depicting abandoned spaces and objects examine both personal and general associations with the Middle East. His photographs of deteriorating buildings do not seek to glamorize the decay but neither are they a detached form of documentation. In these somewhat sardonic works, Al-Ghoussein lingers on the traces of human presence and the attempts to create expressions of individuality within an unsatisfactory habitat. Al-Ghoussein captures images of places and objects that will soon cease to exist, preserving the narrative of the spaces and their former inhabitants. 


Inserting himself into some of the landscape images, Al-Ghoussein appears as a lone figure wearing a kaffiyeh (a traditional Palestinian headdress). The charged symbolism of the artists heritage was clearly demonstrated during a self-portrait shoot; the artist was subjected to a police interrogation for wearing a kaffiyeh whilst gazing towards a distant Palestine. The resulting photographs are quietly contemplative, inviting viewers to reassess their assumptions and stereotypes.


Other pieces depict walls or other physical barriers, referencing the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Al-Ghoussein examines experiences of diaspora and the obstacles that prevent free movement in addition to access to one’s cultural heritage. Al-Ghoussein has also used installation in his practice; presenting personal items alongside newspaper clippings, the artist tells the story of the private and the public elements of his family life, and how this has impacted his own relationship with notions of self.


Al-Ghoussein's solo shows include: Odysseus, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2021); Al Sawaber, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2017); K Files, CAP Kuwait, Kuwait (2017); K Files and Sawaber Series, Nevada Museum of Art, USA (2016); K Files, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2014); E Series, Kalfayan Galleries, Athens, Greece (2011); A Retrospective: Works from 2003-2010, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah, UAE (2010). 


His work has been shown in a number of group shows including; At the Edge of Land, Jameel Arts Center, Dubai, UAE (2024); Brand New Ancients, Misk Art Institute, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2023);Theatre of Operations, MoMA PS1, NY, USA (2019-2020); Negotiating The Future: 6th Asian Art Biennial, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung City, Taiwan (2017); The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence,Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, UAE (2017); Presence: Reflections on the Middle East, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Center for Visual Art, CO, USA (2017); View from Inside: Contemporary Arab Photography, Video and Mix Media, Emirates Palace Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2015); FotoFest 2014 Biennial, The 15th International Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art, Houston, USA (2014); How Green Was My Valley, Whitebox Art Space, New York, USA (2014); Lost in Landscape, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy (2014); Photoquai,Photography Biennial, Paris, France (2013); The Blue Route, Villa Empain, Brussels, Belgium (2013); From Palestine with Hope,Art Space, London, UK (2013); Safar/Voyage, Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada (2013);Mind and Body, DUCTAC, Dubai, UAE (2013) and The National Pavilion of Kuwait 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2013). 


Al-Ghoussein’s works are collected by museums worldwide including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Freer I Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian, Washington D.C.; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV, USA; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; British Museum, London; the Royal Museum of Photography in Copenhagen; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; the Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; the Sharjah Biennial Collection, UAE; the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, UAE; and the New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE.