Abu Dhabi: Prominent Kuwaiti artist and scholar Tarek Al-Ghoussein died on Saturday in New York. He was 60 years old and had spent much of his life in the United Arab Emirates.
News of his passing was announced by The Third Line art gallery in Dubai.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the sudden passing of Tarek Al-Ghoussein yesterday in New York. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Our friend and artist will be deeply missed, may his soul rest in eternal peace” , the gallery said in a statement.
Cried by many
Al-Ghoussein was a prolific visual artist and spent his final years as a professor at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYU Abu Dhabi). His death was mourned by prominent educators and officials, including UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi.
“Our deepest condolences to his family, loved ones and the entire NYU Abu Dhabi community,” Al Kaabi posted on his Instagram Stories.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tarek. He was a wonderful artist, a pillar of the rapidly growing arts community in the UAE, a founding faculty member of our visual arts programs, and a strong supporter of NYUAD Art Gallery. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Tarek’s family and loved ones,” NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann said.
Al Ghoussein was born in 1962 in Kuwait to parents displaced from Palestine. He spent his youth in the United States, Morocco, and Japan, earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from New York University in 1985. In 1989, Al-Ghoussein earned his Masters in Photography at the University of New Mexico.
Career in the UAE
He first worked as a documentary photographer and photojournalist, then moved to the United Arab Emirates. Having lived in the country for the past 25 years, he had become an integral part of the nation’s formative arts landscape.
First as a professor at the American University of Sharjah, then as director of the Master of Fine Arts program at NYU Abu Dhabi, Al-Ghousein has guided many young artists on their educational journey.
A renowned artist, he represented the United Arab Emirates at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and Kuwait in 2013. His works are exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Smithsonian, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, the Royal Museum of Photography in Copenhagen; Mathaf Museum, Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah Art Foundation, Mori Art Museum, Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and New York University Abu Dhabi.
According to The Third Line, Al Ghoussein’s work has explored the boundaries between landscape photography, self-portraiture and performance art.
“Evocative photographs [depicted] abandoned spaces and objects examined 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 spaces and their former inhabitants, and also inserting himself into landscape images as an ever-present protagonist,” says gallery press release.
Abu Dhabi Islands
Al Ghoussein’s most recent work was “Odysseus”, an epic photographic journey to document the 214 islands off Abu Dhabi. Part of this series, started in 2015, was recently presented at the Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi.
Many Arab and international artists and cultural figures mourn the loss of Al-Ghoussein.
Lateefa bint Maktoum, founder and director of Tashkeel, said in an Instagram post that Al Ghoussein is mourned as “a father figure” and a brother by his students and colleagues.