Inès Rodier, BA Development Studies and Politics
“The aim of the exhibition is then to replicate the unparalleled sensation of the discovery of the sacred place.”
The Saatchi Gallery is currently hosting the ‘Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh’ exhibition, which runs from 2 November 2019 until 3 May 2020.
This exhibition, displaying the artefacts present in the Pharaoh’s tomb, is indeed quite unique, not only because of the importance of the historical character they are linked to or their exclusivity but also regarding the circumstances of their discovery.
In fact, since the world found out about his existence in 1922, Tutankhamun has been considered one of the greatest Pharaohs that Egypt has ever had. He was, for instance, responsible for the overthrow of the monotheist worshipping of Aten, established by his father, and the restoration of the previous polytheist order, which brought back some stability in the region. What is more, his reign, from 1336 to 1326 B.C., happened during a period when Egypt was the most powerful civilization in the world.
However, the exhibition is centred on another aspect of the Pharaoh’s history, which is one of his tomb’s discovery. As such, the exhibition starts off with a screening of the history of the search for Tutankhamun’s tomb, with the two principal characters being the British Egyptologist Howard Carter and his patron, the wealthy Lord Carnarvon. Their discovery is set out as spectacular as the Pharaoh’s life had been completely written out of history by his successors so that there was no actual knowledge of such wealth before it was found.
The overall aim of the exhibition is then to replicate the unparalleled sensation of the discovery of the sacred place with, at the end of the visit, a virtual reality experience putting visitors in Carter’s and Carnarvon’s feet at the moment of the discovery.
In regard to the artefacts, their display resembles what has been characterized as ‘pop archaeology’. They appear in a sensational fashion, plunged into darkness, with quite dramatic music in the background and some spiritual quotes from the ‘Book of the death’ written on the walls. This nevertheless does not prevent the viewer from appreciating the beauty of every object, with some 60 out of the 150 present being out of Egypt for the first time.
Additionally, there is one theme which is quite recurrent, that is the one of remembrance, in reference to the forgotten Pharaoh but maybe also to the explorers, which are at times stealing Tut’s limelight.
Finally, this exhibition is a must-visit if you are not planning on going to Cairo in the following years or decades, as this tour is advertised as the last trip of the Pharaoh’s belongings before they go back to Egypt ‘forever’. The Grand Egyptian Museum is, in fact, being built at the moment in Cairo – partly thanks to the money collected through the tickets for this exhibition – and will be the place where the Pharaoh will now rest.