Art Exhibit Review: KING TUT: THE TREASURES OF THE GOLDEN PHARAOH (California Science Center)

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by Tony Frankel on November 20, 2018

in Extras,Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


One of the most famous people who has ever existed isn’t well-known because of his life, but his death. Over 5,000 perfectly preserved artifacts were discovered along with this young king’s mummified remains by English archaeologist Howard Carter on November 4, 1922 in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. As the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb approaches, artifacts from the legendary site are going on a 10-city international tour before setting up permanent shop in Giza’s Grand Egyptian Museum, where the main attraction will be the first exhibition of the full-tomb collection — once the highly anticipated, extraordinarily expensive museum opens that is, hopefully somewhere around the turn of the decade.

King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh debuted at the California Science Center in Los Angeles last March, and it gives a strikingly detailed look at the boy king’s final resting place, which was found undisturbed and completely intact. When the golden treasures were unearthed, it exploded the fancies of people around the globe, who would copy the designs as fashion and art so much that the mysterious and timeless images have become part of our modern culture (Egyptian Theatre, anyone?).

The exhibition, which ends on January 9, 2019, features golden jewelry, sculptures, and ritual objects. It is an astounding opportunity to get a fascinating crash course in Egyptology. Over 150 stunning original artifacts, including 60 new treasures never seen before outside of Cairo, await you. Those of you who scoff because you think it’ll be touristy, or a redux of the disappointing LACMA exhibit 13 years ago, will miss out on an astonishing display of lavishness and mind-boggling artistry.

The exhibit clearly has a lot of information, but it’s never overwhelming because the focus is the art — which is displayed in glass cases; most objects can be seen with a 360º view. Tut ruled during the 18th Dynasty, in the middle of a 500-year stretch when Egypt enjoyed its status as the most powerful country in the world, and to see such exquisite art up-close is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ll tell you about a tiny sampling, then I advise you get tickets fast, as the holidays will be a busy time here (and give yourself extra time to see The Mysteries of Egypt at the IMAX theater.)

Just check out the two photos above. On top is Tutankhamun on a Skiff, Throwing Harpoon: Carved in wood, the figure was gessoed and gilded. The ends of the painted papyrus skiff were also gilded. With a harpoon on the right hand and his coiled rope made of bronze pictured here, the king was ready to strike the deadly hippopotamus. Below that is a detailed photo of the figure’s hand.

Pictured above is the gold inlaid pectoral necklace with a lapis scarab, an important symbol of rebirth. Every evening at dusk, scarab beetles disappeared underground, only to reappear at daybreak. In a similar gesture, each morning the scarab god Re-Khepri reappears, rolling the solar disk of the sun over the horizon.

This beautiful chalice, or wishing cup (above), sat just inside the doorway to Tut’s tomb. It was carved from a single piece of translucent alabaster. The king’s name is engraved on the cup, along with a wish that he be granted eternal life: “May your ‘ka’ live millions of years, may your eyes see wonderful things.” I can’t guarantee you a million-year ka, but your eyes will definitely see wonderful things you’ll never forget.


photos courtesy of California Science Center

Kind Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh
California Science Center, Exposition Park, 700 State Drive
ends on January 6, 2019
for tickets, visit California Science Center
for more info, call 323.724.3623

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