Review of 'Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh'

https://tutankhamun-london.com/

When we heard that artefacts from King Tutankhamun's tomb were travelling outside of Egypt for the last time we were quick to grab tickets for their visit to London. The tickets are not cheap at £28.50 for adults plus another £5 for an audio guide so expectations were set quite high. Unfortunately, we left feeling a bit disappointed.

I recall seeing the King Tut exhibit in Toronto (Canada) when it toured the world while I was a child. I remember seeing the death mask and the many important pieces on display and being amazed though, at the time, I was more interested in getting through to the souvenir shop (then only ended up buying a death mask chocolate, for some reason). The new exhibition in London features very few of the pieces I saw those many years ago. So, I suppose, I was always bound to be dissapointed.

Entrance

Entrance to the exhibition is via the Saachi Gallery's main entrance where you first pass through a quick security check of any bags. There is a cloakroom just inside the building which costs about £1 an item. The obligatory, it seems, photograph is taken as soon as you enter (you can ask not to have this done, thank goodness) then you pick up your audio guide after which you wait a short time to be admitted into the first room which is a short video introducing the basic story of the discovery of the tomb by British archaeologists Howard Carter who was funded by Lord Carnarvon as well as the boy king himself who became king at the age of nine but tragically died young at 19 years of age.

Flail and Crook of the Boy King

The exhibit is composed of a series of rooms on the ground and first floors of the gallery that you are directed to by stewards.

Directions

Not all of the exhibits have audio guide entries but all have descriptions of the artefacts and quotations from the Egyptian book of the dead – A reoccurring theme. Many times there are also video presentations of some aspect of what you are seeing: How the canopic jars (containing the organs of the king) were arranged, how the tomb was laid out, etc. The primary focus of the exhibit here seemed to be to provide a general overview of the ancient Egyptian beliefs and rites for the afterlife but also, in the final rooms, information about the discovery of the tomb itself. The detail given is basic but enough to explain what is being shown and it's significance.

Burial Ornamentation

A good number of the artefacts are ornamental in nature, such as the decorations in the sarcophagus itself, but there are examples of some of the more practical aspects including food containers, hunting equipment and, of course, furniture that were found in the tomb to prepare the king for his journey through the afterlife. Display write-ups included indications of whether this was the first time the item had been exhibited outside of Egypt…a lot of what was on display was so marked.

Crowds

The crowds when we visited early on a Saturday morning were quite large but thinned out as we progressed through the rooms. By the time we left the exhibit at 1 pm there were only a few people queuing to get inside. At the end you go through the obligatory gift shop which is two rooms with t-shirts, fridge magnets, and the like on offer. Here there is a reproduction of the gold “Mask of Tutankhamun” with an explanation of why this was not on display in the galleries: It no longer leaves Egypt due to it's value and fragility.

I would suggest many people visiting the exhibition will be disappointed at not seeing any of the famous artefacts from the tomb, certainly I was though I was fascinated at the other more mundane and unusual pieces on display (probably about 50-60 of them) and learned quite a lot about this enigmatic king. Overpriced, probably, over-hyped, certainly, but, also, probably worth it for anyone with an interest in King Tut.

Rating:

Review Date: 2020-03-14



Location: London (England)

Address: Duke of York's HQ King's Road London SW3 4RY ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Sloane Square

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7811 3070

URL: https://www.saatchigallery.com/

Located just off the Kings Road in Chelsea, this gallery plays host to various temporary shows. The square in front of the gallery host a food fair every Saturday. Entry to the gallery's standard exhibits are free but special shows are ticketed.