Ah, my beautiful Venus!, installation view Kunstinstituut Melly, 2017. Photo by Aad Hoogendoorn.
This installation comprises 6.5 tons of basalt quarried and cut into square tiles in Swaida, southern Syria. The modular composition is the same weight and type of stone material that comprises the original Venus, which was the centerpiece of Max von Oppenheim’s Tell Halaf Museum in Berlin. After meeting conservators at the Pergamon Museum, Tabet was able to make foil pressings from von Oppenheim’s plaster mold of the original Venus, which was cast upon its discovery in 1911. This mold was used by Pergamon Museum conservators to aid in the reconstruction of the shattered original, which was damaged during an Allied bombing raid on Berlin.
The fragmented presentation of the sculpture not only recalls its destruction and painstaking reassembly but also the excavation of cultural artefacts by foreign powers and their subsequent scattering across the world, which often coincided with violent or exploitative practices in history. Navigating the evolving status of travel restrictions and embargos that hinder/inhibit freedom of movement, the basalt tiles are accompanied by a chronological display of shipping records that record their journey from Syria to exhibition venues in Lebanon, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates.