Sunday, November 16, 2008

Drama KING

When the tomb of King Tutankhamun was discovered in 1922, Tutmania gripped the public like a fever. The temperature spiked again in the 1970s with the tour of “Treasures of Tutankhamun,” which bypassed a disappointed Atlanta.

Get the cold compress ready: It’s our turn now. “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs,” a new exhibition, begins its U.S. tour at the Civic Center today, and it’s terrific.

Too often big exhibits intended for a broad audience are more Hollywood than art. Not this one. Yes, it’s dramatic. Arts and Exhibitions International, the organizer, has deployed a full artillery of effects, from pin-point lighting in darkened spaces to video fly-throughs, to create a memorable experience.

But never at the expense of the artifacts. The 130 objects from The Egyptian Museum in Cairo are the stars of the show, and they are top-notch. The museum and curator David Silverman worked together to select an array that represents the artistry and range of ancient Egyptian arts and crafts. Majestic pharaohs carved from obdurate stone. Vessels carved out of milky Egyptian alabaster. Birds fluttering in the marsh painted on a palace floor.

The objects tell a story, too. The exhibit is a TUTorial (to steal the Carlos Museum’s term) on the pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt. The roll call of mighty kings in the first gallery is followed by chapters on their courtiers, families, religious beliefs and, of course, their elaborate funerary rituals.

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