The boy-king of ancient Egypt who "gave his life for tourism," as comedian Steve Martin famously sang in 1979, returns to Canada this fall for a five-month visit.
The Art Gallery of Ontario announced yesterday that it will be the only Canadian stop for Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, one of two King Tut shows currently touring North America. This one features 130 ancient Egyptian artifacts - 71 from the young pharaoh's tomb - organized by Ohio-based Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society.
While there has been talk over the decades of "the curse of Tut," in reality Tut has proved more terrific than terrifying. His Toronto stay, running Nov. 24 through April 18, 2010, is expected to be a big draw, perhaps as big as the AGO's last King Tut show, a two-month affair in late 1979 that attracted almost 800,000 visitors - still the best-attended single show in the gallery's 109-year history.
"We would like to at least achieve the 1979 success," said Susan Bloch-Nevitte, the AGO's director of public affairs. "Times being what they are, we tend to the conservative for budget planning purposes."
Google / The Canadian Press
King Tut is returning to Canada this fall, some 30 years after a massively popular exhibit about the boy pharoah sparked attendance records and a Steve Martin spoof.
This time around, an extensive exhibition will feature an almost entirely different collection and more than twice the number of treasures - including 130 pieces from Tut's tomb and other ancient sites.
They will be on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario from November until April 2010.
"Tutankhamun's magic still captures the hearts of people all over the world, even though more than 85 years have passed since the discovery of his amazing tomb," Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Thursday in a statement.
"I always say that Egyptian antiquities are the heritage of the world and that we are their only guardians."
Entitled, "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs," the collection includes a 10-foot statue of Tut found at the remains of a funerary temple and the first three-dimensional CT scans of the king's mummy, captured by an Egyptian research and conservation project.
Other artifacts include jewelry, furniture and weapons, as well as Tut's golden sandals - which were created specifically for the afterlife and still covered his feet when his mummified remains were discovered in 1922.
Thirty years after the wonders of King Tut had their celebrated Canadian debut at the Art Gallery of Ontario, an even bigger exhibition - Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs - will make its sole Canadian appearance at the AGO with a members-only preview starting November 21 and public opening November 24. The 1979 exhibition sparked "Tutmania" throughout Canada and brought more than 750,000 visitors to the AGO.
With an almost entirely different selection of treasures and more than twice the number of artifacts as were displayed in the 1979 exhibition, Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs features 130 remarkable pieces from the tomb of King Tut and ancient sites representing some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. Derived from temples and royal and private tombs from 2600 B.C to 660 B.C., most of these artifacts had never before been seen in North America prior to this exhibition, which is currently breaking venue attendance records during its U.S. premiere in Atlanta.
This spectacular collection features the largest image of King Tut ever unearthed - a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of the funerary temple of two of his high officials. The statue still retains much of its original paint.
Three decades after he set off "Tut Mania," Egypt's famed boy pharaoh is set to return to Toronto, with Art Gallery of Ontario officials hoping he'll give a healthy boost to the art venue's flagging attendance.
The gallery announced Thursday that Toronto will be the sole Canadian stop for the massive exhibit Tutankhamen: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, beginning in November.
When the Treasures of Tutankhamen went on tour in the 1970s, throngs flocked to the exhibit, including when it hit Toronto in 1979. AGO director Matthew Teitelbaum believes that the pharoah's allure continues.
"He's a young guy who ruled the world. I mean, that's the fantasy for all of us, I think," he told CBC News.
Since reopening after a lavish Frank Gehry redesign about five months ago, just 350,000 people have visited the downtown gallery — nearly 20 per cent behind projections — and officials recently cut back visiting hours. However, AGO public affairs director Susan Bloch Nevitt said she believes the Tut show will turn things around.
See the above pages for the full story.