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PRINT February 2020

LET THE RECORD SHOW

View of “Rayyane Tabet: Alien Property,” 2019–21, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen.

TWO COLOSSAL STONE BEASTS guard the archway over the threshold of gallery 401, on the second floor of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, just south of the grand balcony overlooking the architectural splendor of the institution’s great hall. The alabaster figures are about three thousand years old and weigh some sixteen thousand pounds each. Known as lamassu, they represent supernatural creatures, protective spirits, hybrid deities with human heads and animal bodies. Impressive feathered wings extend backward from their shoulders. Long geometric beards hang from their faces. They wear horned caps to signal divinity and belts symbolizing power. Each of the figures has five legs, so that from the front they appear to be standing firm, but from the side they look as though they are striding purposefully forward. At a glance, the creatures register as twins, doubles—but in fact

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