An Excavation - VISUAL

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art &
The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

An Excavation

Maeve Brennan

30 Sept 2023 - 14 Jan 2024

11am - 5pm
Tuesday - Sunday

In 2014, 45 crates of looted antiquities were discovered at Geneva Freeport in a warehouse belonging to disgraced antiquities dealer Robin Symes. They contained tens of thousands of archaeological remnants worth around £7 million. Three of the crates were sent to forensic archaeologists Dr Christos Tsirogiannis and Dr Vinnie Norskov for research.

An Excavation documents Tsirogiannis and Norskov’s investigation into a series of vases from the Geneva Freeport crates. Made in the 4th century BC by Apulian artisans, these vases remained buried in tombs for 2500 years before they were clandestinely excavated from their now irrecoverable contexts. The objects’ journeys through the hands of looters, smugglers, restorers and dealers are counterpointed by the hand-painted stories that adorn them. Made for burials, the vases depict scenes from the underworld – forensic and mythological narratives start to intertwine.

An Excavation derives from Maeve Brennan’s long-term research project The Goods (2018 – present). This multi-disciplinary body of work is concerned with the international traffic in looted antiquities, mapping the network from looters and smugglers to auction houses and museums.


Maeve Brennan is an artist and filmmaker based in London. Her practice explores the historical and political resonance of material and place. Working across moving image, installation, sculpture and printed matter, her works excavate layered histories, revealing the unseen or hidden structures that determine our lived environment.

Recent solo exhibitions include Galerie für Gegenwartskunst, E-WERK Freiburg; Stanley Picker Gallery, London; Chisenhale Gallery, London; Spike Island, Bristol; The Whitworth, Manchester; Mother’s Tankstation, Dublin; Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art in Turku, Finland; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria. Brennan’s work was featured in British Art Show 9 (2021-22) and her films have been screened internationally at CPH:DOX; Open City Documentary Festival; International Film Festival Rotterdam; FILMADRID; Sheffield Doc Fest and Sonic Acts, Amsterdam. She received the Jerwood/FVU Award 2018, Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists (2021) and was the Stanley Picker Fine Art Fellow (2019–22). She was awarded the Sainsbury Scholarship at the British School at Rome (2023) and is currently in residence at Somerset House Studios, London.