Rayyane Tabet

January 23rd–April 18th, 2020*

97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY

#arabesque  #rayyanetabet  @storefrontnyc   


See photos from the opening here.
Watch the full exhibition video by PLANE-SITE here or below. 



In 2020, an improbable meeting takes place between a young American architect and an older French architectural historian over a century after they were both at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.


Julia Morgan (1872–1957) was the institution’s first female architecture student, and went on to become a prolific representative of the American Arts and Crafts movement in her home state of California. At a time when Modernism was coming into favor, her design for the Hearst Castle at San Simeon was grand and complex, utilizing decorative elements and mixing many architectural styles.


Jules Bourgoin (1838–1908) was a Paris-born professor who spent much time traveling across the Middle East and North Africa. Bourgoin’s trips were intricately documented, and his keen interest in architectural detail and ornamentation was made visible through elaborate drawings that were incorporated into publications such as Les Arts Arabes (“The Arab Arts”) and Les Eléments de l’Art Arabe (“The Elements of Arab Art”).


It remains unknown the impact that Bourgoin’s work had on his students, and whether Morgan—who was a master in adopting different architectural styles—actually studied under him. Arabesque creates a space where the work of Morgan and Bourgoin is juxtaposed to reflect upon notions of appropriation and context. Anchoring his explorations around these two figures, Tabet presents a new body of work that sits between historical truths, chance encounters, and the migration of ideas.


About the Artist

Rayyane Tabet lives and works in Beirut. Drawing from experience and self-directed research, Tabet explores stories that offer alternative understandings of major socio-political events through individual narratives. Informed by his training in architecture and sculpture, Tabet’s work investigates paradoxes in the built environment and its history by way of installations that reconstitute the perception of physical and temporal distance. His most recent and upcoming solo shows include the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Parasol Unit in London, Carré d’Art in Nîmes, Kunstverein in Hamburg, and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. His work was featured in Manifesta 12, the 21st Biennale of Sydney, the 15th Istanbul Biennial, the 32nd São Paulo Biennial, the 6th Marrakech Biennale, the 10th and 12th Sharjah Biennials, and the 2nd New Museum Triennial.


Building Cycles

Arabesque is the third exhibition in Building Cycles, Storefront’s year-long curatorial program that examines building as both a place and a process. Focused on decoration and ornamentation, this exhibition questions existing and historical modes of practice by examining the notions of context and appropriation in our built environment. Arabesque follows the first two exhibitions in the cycle, Aquí­ vive gente and Ministry for All.




Arabesque by Rayyane Tabet. Graphic design by Morcos Key. Organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2020.


Storefront for Art and Architecture Team:

José Esparza Chong Cuy, Executive Director and Chief Curator

Jinny Khanduja, Deputy Director

Jessica Kwok, Gallery and Operations Manager

Kweku Addo-Atuah; Axelle Dechelette; Eduardo Meneses; Victor Ohene, Interns



Arabesque is generously supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, and BKSK Architects.


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Arabesque is the third exhibition in Storefront for Art and Architecture’s year-long program of exhibitions and events, Building Cycles. Founding support of Building Cycles is generously provided by Linde-Griffith Construction Company and the Graham Foundation.




Building Cycles has also been made possible through general support from Arup; DS+R; KPF; Steven Holl Architects, WXY architecture + design; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by Storefront’s Board of Directors, members, and individual donors.


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