Monday, June 05, 2006

'Tut' is all show, no art (Chicago Tribune)
An interesting piece on the Chicago Tribune website which takes a critical look at the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs exhibition, raising questions about the information value of such blockbusters in general, and questioning why they must emphasise the "romantic" nature of the find, rather offering explanations of the artefacts: "We get stagecraft — walls painted sand or black to resemble desert and tomb, sconces with cutout hieroglyphs, an avenue of columns — enhanced by projections, animations, photo-murals, lightboxes, even pseudo-Egyptian music. We also get enough objects from before the time of Tut to see how radical his predecessor Akhenaten was and how the conservative Tut sought to return to earlier forms and values. Everything is presented, however, in relation to his short life — Tut died at 19 — as if that, his riches, and the ancient Egyptian view of death make stronger connections with us than the impact of the finest objects.Would fewer people come to the show if, in addition to the 'story of [Tut's] royal ancestors,' some of the labels told more about the objects' making than their function or conjectural owner? Back in 1977, as now, there seems to have been the assumption that only simple, non-artistic narratives would keep the turnstiles clicking because any audience large in number would automatically recoil from two or three lines unfolding in parallel."

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