Adel Abdessemed

Hard-hitting provocations, executed with discerning sensitivity.

Adel Abdessemed holding onto a small ladder and reaching to draw on a wall
photographs of Barack Obama, his wife and soldiers pinned to a wall
two small figurines of a solider playing football with a child
5 images

Adel Abdessemed was born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria, and now lives and works in London, UK.


Growing up in the mountains of Algeria, he had little access to art, but recounts the profound impression made by an image of Rembrant's La Baigneuse in his cousin's Petit Robert (dictionary).

Did you know?

The artist is known to have a specific and special way of laughing, which his art professor in Algeria described as "The Devil's Laugh."

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Practice overview

Adel Abdessemed’s life and art has been shaped by terror and violence. During the first few years of increasing tensions between the government and guerrilla factions in Algeria, Abdessemed studied Fine Art at École Supérieure des Beaux Arts. In 1994 Ahmed Assalah, the University’s director, and his son were murdered on school grounds, which led the artist to evacuate his home country. Since then, he has lived and worked in France and England amidst a political age marked by ‘the war on terror.’ While utilising multiple mediums including painting, sculpture, film and installation, all of his work is driven by a singular motive: to expose the cruel and inconvenient realities of systemic, organised violence.

Abdessemed holds a mirror to the world around him. No topic is off-bounds. A five-metre-tall, bronze effigy, Headbutt (2012), monumentalises the famous moment that Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi in response to a racial slur at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final. While Spring (2018) - a controversial film censored from his solo show at MAC Lyon after outcry from animal rights activists - uses special effects to show chickens being set on fire. Approaching a vast breadth of socio-political issues with tireless criticality, Abdessemed unpicks reality to show it’s ugliness. His work, although brutal, is merely an articulation of the world in which he has lived. As Abdessemed put it himself: “The world is violent — not me.”

"Hope is the only negative thing in the world, we don't need hope. What we need is truth."Adel Abdessemed