Kuwaiti-Palestinian artist Tarek Al-Ghoussein dies aged 60 in New York

Visual artist, who lived in the UAE, was also a professor of visual arts at New York University Abu Dhabi

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Kuwaiti-Palestinian artist and academic Tarek Al-Ghoussein has died aged 60 in New York.

The news was announced by Dubai’s Third Line Gallery on Sunday. "It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden passing of Tarek Al-Ghoussein yesterday in New York City," reads the statement, posted to Instagram.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will deeply miss our friend and artist, may his soul rest in eternal peace."

No cause of death has been announced.

'We're in shock'

New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Centre also released a statement on Twitter. As a professor of visual arts at NYU Abu Dhabi, Al-Ghoussein taught subjects such as photography and documentary photography.

“We're in shock," read the statement. "It’s a huge loss for the arts in the UAE, across the region and the world, but also personally for so many individuals at NYU AD."

Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, also paid tribute to the ambitious artist, whose work was firmly rooted in the UAE.

"Our sincerest condolences to his family, loved ones and the NYU Abu Dhabi community,” she said on Instagram.

Barjeel Art Foundation founder, Sultan Al Qassemi, also paid his respects on Twitter.

“Tarek was an accomplished academic and artist, whose work was collected by regional institutions like the Sharjah Art Foundation and global museums like Guggenheim New York," he said.

Who was Tarek Al-Ghoussein?

Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, Al-Ghoussein was educated in the US, before settling in the UAE 25 years ago.

“Tarek’s work explored the boundaries between landscape photography, self-portraiture and performance art,” the Third Line statement said.

"Evocative photographs depicting abandoned spaces and objects examined both personal and general associations with the Middle East.

“He captured images of places and objects that would soon cease to exist, preserving the narrative of the spaces and their former inhabitants.

"Often inserting himself into the landscape images, as the ever-present protagonist.”

Odysseus: a legacy of work in Abu Dhabi

For the last seven years, Al-Ghoussein had been working on Odysseus, an epic photographic exhibition where he attempted to visually document all of the 214 islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

Al-Ghoussein exhibited images from approximately 30 islands in 2021 at The Third Line, including desolated towns such as Al Mousnoua, located 10 minutes off the main Abu Dhabi coast.

In a review for The National, writer Alexandra Chaves praised Al-Ghoussein for highlighting important issues with Odysseus.

“Through his images, the artist navigates ideas of place and habitation, as well as how we build and deconstruct spaces.

“While the fate of Odysseus remains unclear, the existing works that constitute the series will continue to raise these questions.”

Updated: June 14, 2022, 8:46 AM