Rayyane Tabet/Alien Property : The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v.77, no. 2 (Fall, 2019)
This Bulletin accompanies Rayyane Tabet's site-specific installation, which responds to four carved stone reliefs from the ancient site of Tell Halaf, in modern Syria. Now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the ancient carvings traveled here under the aegis of the World War I–era Alien Property Act. Approaching this complex history from three perspectives, the text includes a historical discussion of the reliefs—from ancient times to their journey to The Met—by Kim Benzel, Curator in Charge of The Met's Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art; a personal account by Rayyane Tabet that chronicles the experiences of his great-grandfather, who worked for Max von Oppenheim, the original excavator of Tell Halaf; and an essay that explores Tabet's installation in the context of twentieth- and twenty-first-century artistic practice by Clare Davies, Assistant Curator in The Met's Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. Tabet's work and the three narratives presented in the Bulletin highlight the entangled, complex histories of cultural artifacts in museum collections while emphasizing their power to educate audiences about the ancient world. The Met's connection to Tell Halaf and its artifacts surfaces important contemporary conversations about the evolving role of encyclopedic museums.