Presenting a selection of the Lebanese but France-based photographer Fouad Elkoury’s images taken between 1982-95, The Third Line’s booth at Art Basel is rife with evocative, subtle images rich with history. Focusing on spaces transformed by their violent pasts, Elkoury’s eye hones in on Lebanese and Palestinian landscapes, a nod to his early years in the field.
"We are thrilled to present Fouad Elkoury’s works in the Feature section at Art Basel. As the only GCC-based gallery (and one of only two from the Middle East), we are proud to be representing the region at such an event," says gallery director Thibault Geffrin. "Undoubtedly, Fouad is one of the most important photographers of his generation. From his 40-year career to founding the Arab Image Foundation to publishing 12 books, Fouad continues to spearhead photography in the region. Our selection of works displayed at Art Basel spans multiple series, yet the recurring imagery of crumbling or abandoned domestic spaces demonstrates a common denominator between the works. The timely presentation aims to shine a light not only on Fouad’s practice, but also on the devastating realities in war-torn Beirut and Palestine."
The collection of photographs are drawn from series over his 13-year time span in the region, and are mainly connected by Elkoury’s interest in place and presence. Maintaining an intimate touch, the cabinet-like presentation sees the images in a variety of sizes dispersed across shelves and walls in a format more akin to a home, contrasting a wishful remembrance against the photojournalistic edge. “These pictures were shot out of rage in Beirut after the end of the civil war when the authorities, in the general indifference, were pulling down most buildings that composed the city centre,” said Elkoury in a statement, specifically referencing The Opera House (1994) and The Bullet Rigged Curtain (1995). “It is only now that the question of their beauty emerges, the beauty of what is no longer there, the beauty of a smile that I caught before it went away, drowned into the sea.”
Making his initial mark through documenting life in Lebanon during the Civil War (1977-90) with an intimate and emotional sensibility rather than hard journalistic approach, the selection of colour and black-and-white photographs read as nostalgic moments of paused history. Though characterised by a specific regional landscape, the images have a universal readability – something the artist has long endeavoured to achieve for the medium.