beirut

View of “Rayyane Tabet,” 2018. Background: Basalt Shards, 2017. Foreground: Kopf Hoch! Mut Hoch! Und Humor Hoch! (Chin Up! Good Luck! And Keep Smiling!), 2017.

Rayyane Tabet

Sfeir-Semler Gallery | Beirut

Opening a thick, bright-yellow-bound, German-language book about the ancient city of Tell Halaf in his grandparents’ library, Rayyane Tabet found a New Year’s card addressed in a casually elegant cursive hand to his great-grandfather. Both the card, sent from Weimar-era Berlin, and the book itself were written and signed by Baron Max von Oppenheim—the scion of a powerful German Jewish banking dynasty and attaché to the Khediviate of Egypt who went on to discover a neolithic archeological site in northeastern Syria in 1899. Stalled by the Ottoman bureaucracy and World War I, Oppenheim was able to return in 1911 and again in 1927 to excavate these remains of a neo-Hittite civilization. Suspecting him of espionage, the French, who had the postwar mandate in greater Syria, kept a close watch on him; Tabet’s great-grandfather was assigned to be Oppenheim’s “secretary.”

After the Pergamonmuseum

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the September 2018 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.