Adel Abdessemed

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Adel Abdessemed
Adel Abdessemed in 2009.jpg
Adel Abdessemed installing his solo exhibition RIO at David Zwirner, New York in 2009
Born March 1971 (age 44)
Constantine, Algeria
Nationality French
Known for Contemporary art
Notable work Coup de tête (sculpture) (2012) Décor (2012)

Adel Abdessemed (born 2 March 1971, Constantine, Algeria) is a French-Algerian conceptual artist. He works and lives in Paris and London. He is represented by David Zwirner (New York/London) and Dvir Gallery (Tel Aviv).


Adel Abdessemed began his artistic production in Batna (1986-1990), then in Algiers, in the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, from where he left in 1994 consequently to the assassinate of the director Ahmed Asselah, and his son, inside the school. Afterwards he lives and works in Lyon (École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, 1994-1998), Paris (Cité internationale des arts, 1999-2000), New York (P.S.1 Scholarship, 2000-2001), Berlin (2002-2004), Paris (2005-2008), New York (2009), Paris (from 2010 to nowadays).

Animal cruelty[edit]

In 2009, Algerian-born Adel Abdessemed created a 1:27 minute video titled "Usine" which featured a variety of different animals and insects captured together in a pen to fend for their lives. In the mix are roosters, snakes, pit bulls, tarantulas, iguanas, white mice, scorpions and a toad. Whether the animals are ripping either other apart or simply ignoring everything, the clip is strange, unsettling and seemed to many to be nothing short of animal abuse. In 2008, Abdessemed produced a similarly frightening video which showed animals murdered in front of a brick wall, including a pig, goat, deer, ox, horse and sheep. Meant to be shown at an exhibit titled "Don't Trust Me" at the San Francisco Art Institute, the show was canceled after the organization received threats of violence by animal rights activists.


  • "Abdessemed's art is love deprived of all romantic weakness. Love as a force, never a feeling."

Francesco Bonami[1]

  • "Establishing a true state of exception is the horizon of Abdessemed’s art, whether he is twisting the cabins of airliners like paper toys, floating a skeleton more than 55 feet tall in the air, or summoning wild animals to the streets of Paris. But the young acrobat suspended from the rope of a helicopter appears as a reminder and a warning."

Patricia Falguières[2]

  • "(…) Abdessemed seems to believe in a totemic spirituality. His works with animals resonate with memories of sacrificial rituals and primordial powers. True, Abdessemed does not want to go back to magic – on the contrary, he firmly believes that totems, like taboos, must be broken, since art is first of all "a means of liberation from oneself."

Massimiliano Gioni[3]

  • "(…) contemporary languages and media should be invented to provide the relevant expressions for this unknown world and its modes of living. Abdessemed has created a huge number of works that are clearly iconoclastic of the established world. At the same time, they embrace and celebrate this upcoming unknown world and its uncertain but exciting orders in a state of permanent remaking…"

Hou Hanru[4]

  • "(…) Abdessemed is at his most incisive on the topic of animality when dealing with human animals, a notion that stands the enlightened arbiter of reason—the humanist subject—on his head. As Larys Frogier reminds us, the artist refuses to anthropomorphize his subjects, such that non-human animals embody human feelings or accommodate our sentimental projections. On the contrary, the artist estranges the humanist subject from himself in order to reveal what is animal about him: those mechanical instincts and behaviors in which the relentless capacity to subjugate the Other is rationalized through the language of animality."

Pamela M. Lee[5]

  • "To the ambient fear, he responds with something resembling a fearless aggressivity. And as in the rhetorical figure of chiasmus, the point at which these two strands cross is where those elements that fall outside of the reigning social order, those elements for which dominant ideologies cannot account, become visible. Abdessemed’s artworks are precisely materializations of that crossing, emerging from the unresolved conflicts of the present."

Tom McDonough[6]

"In the same way that a dream’s meaning cannot be reduced to its narration but refers back to more remote phenomena taken from childhood, the meaning of Abdessemed’s works cannot be limited to their immediate, occasional origin. They refer rather to a horizon at once more distant and more ancient, made up of the totality of images and texts that have left their traces in the artist’s memory." Philippe-Alain Michaud[7]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2013: "L'âge d'or", Mathaf, Arab museum of modern art, Doha, Qatar. Curator: Pier Luigi Tazzi.
  • 2012: "Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent", Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France. Curator: Philippe-Alain Michaud.
  • 2012: "Décor", Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France. Curator: Frédérique Goerig-Hergott.
  • 2010: "Silent warriors", Parasol Unit foundation for contemporary art, London. Curator: Ziba Ardalan.
  • 2009: "Le ali di dio", Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy. Curator: Francesco Bonami.
  • 2008: "Situation and Practice", MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA, USA. Curator: Jane Farver.
  • 2008: "Trust Me", The Common Guild, Glasgow. Curator: Douglas Gordon.
  • 2008: "Don't Trust Me", Walter and Mc Bean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute. Curator: Hou Hanru.

Adel Abdessemed's solo shows have been organized as well in galleries such as: Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv ("Conversation" in 2006, "Poursuite" in 2007, "NU" in 2011) ; and David Zwirner (NYC : "Rio" in 2009, "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" in 2012 ; London : "Le vase abominable" in 2013).

International art events[edit]

  • 2012: La Triennale, "Intense Proximité", Paris. Curator: Okwui Enwezor.
  • 2010: Triennale Aichi, Nagoya. Curator: Pier Luigi Tazzi.
  • 2009: 10e Biennale de la Havane. Curators: Margarita González, Nelson Herrera Ysla, José Manuel Noceda, Ibis Hernández Abascal, Margarita Sánchez Prieto, José Fernández Portal, Dannys Montes de Oca Moreda.
  • 2009: 10e Biennale d'Istanbul. Curator: Hou Hanru.
  • 2009: 10e Biennale de Lyon. Curator: Hou Hanru.
  • 2008: 7e Biennale de Gwangju. Curator: Okwui Enwezor.
  • 2007: 52e Biennale de Venise. Curator: Robert Storr.
  • 2006: 27e Biennale de São Paulo. Curator: Lisette Lagnado.
  • 2003: 49e Biennale de Venise. Curator: Francesco Bonami.
  • 2001: Triennale de Yokohama. Curator: Nakamura Nobuo.
  • 2000: Manifesta 3, Ljubljana. Curator : Francesco Bonami.


  1. ^ Adel Abdessemed. Les ailes de dieu/Le ali di dio, cat. exp., Turin, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, 2009, p. 23.
  2. ^ Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent, cat. exp., Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2012, p. 210.
  3. ^ Adel Abdessemed. Les ailes de dieu/Le ali di dio, cat. exp., Turin, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaugendo, 2009, p. 62.
  4. ^ Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent, cat. exp., Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2012, p. 153.
  5. ^ Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent, cat. exp., Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2012, p. 174.
  6. ^ Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent, cat. exp., Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2012, p. 191.
  7. ^ Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent, cat. exp., Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2012, p. 109.

External links[edit]