Review: Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh presented by Viking Cruises at the Saatchi Gallery

8th December 2019 No Comments

Ever since I was a little girl i’ve been completely fascinated by Tutankhamum and Egyptology, in fact this led to me becoming an archaeologist and museum curator, which is what I do today! As a result of all this I can be a bit blase about exhibitions and the children have seen and done it all before. Often I go along and I spend most of my time looking at how the objects are mounted, whether the lighting is any good and whether there are too many words on the panels and labels.

I’m not going to lie, when I received and invite to a press viewing of Tutankhamum; Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh I genuinely couldn’t believe my luck. It really was like a dream come true, of course I was going to see the exhibition- but the chance to see it without the crowds and to actually see all of those artifacts that I’ve read about and drawn was something else. Unfortunately it was a family press day so I had to bring everyone else- you can’t have it all though can you…

The exhibition is at the Saatchi Gallery which is a magnificent building close to Sloane Square, a place where the visitors can  benefit from the ability to park nearby on the street or in one of several car parks. For us as a family this worked really well because it meant that no-one was exhausted before we stepped into the exhibition. As you’d expect the entry to the exhibition is very slick and well organised with options for audio tours and a photo opportunity. This was well managed and I think works very well, providing the opportunity for a family souvenir.

The first stop in the exhibition is an introductory film, I thought this was excellent, just the right length and it did a great job of arousing the eldest child’s interest. He is now 12 and far too cool to like exhibitions, but on this occasion he really started to engage. Following him around I noticed that he was showing a genuine interest. Result!

When Howard Carter first glimpsed inside the tomb of Tutankhamum he spoke of seeing ‘wonderful things’ and indeed he did. In my daily job I’m really fortunate in that I often get to see amazing and wonderful objects but the exhibition literally took my breath away. I genuinely found myself speechless when I was looking at some of the items which I have seen and studied in books, to see them in real life and have the ability to look at them from a variety of angles is an amazing privilege. There are over 150 original artefacts from the tomb, 60 of which have never travelled outside Egypt. These include some of the most important specimens. I was totally amazed by some of the things, such as the chair (see below). Having the ability to see it really brought home to me the size of the pharaoh and how young he was.

the chair resembling the famous golden throne is slightly rounded and tilted back bowed armrests and a deep doubly curved seat, the back is decorated in an attractive geometric pattern with strips of ebony and ivory and reinforced with three vertical slats, each armrest is inset with gold foil and the insides are embossed with naturalistic scenes of vegetation
credit: Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo, Italy

 

The exhibition commemorates 100 years since the discovery of the tomb and this aspect of the story is well explored through some impressive images and digital presentations. The design and staging of the exhibition is magnificent, its incredibly well thought out, impressively displayed and frankly one of the best exhibitions of archaeological material i’ve ever seen. From a professional  perspective, the fact that the labels are replicated on the top of the cases allowing everyone to read them even when the gallery is busy was brilliant. I also really liked the use of films and digital on top of some of the cases. I could clearly see how the  narrative had been thought out to guide visitors. I learnt a lot about good exhibition display in this exhibition and I think that speaks volumes.

looking at large photograph of howard carter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess what you really want to know is whether its a great family day out. I think this would very much depend on the age of your kids and also how busy the gallery is because you want them to be able to see the artefacts. In terms of exhibitions to take children to visit in London I don’t think you could do much better, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to see this material. Ancient Egypt is on the KS2 and KS3 National Curriculum, so it’s something worth exploring and if your kids are anything like mine, something that they will also know enough about to be interested in.

My children were really thrilled to see the material. The seven year old was absolutely gripped with it all and is still telling me facts about Tutankhamun. I think it’s a trip which he will remember for years to come. The older children (10 and 12) thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, there was just the right mix of digital and it was perfectly displayed for them. They particularly liked the references to the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead and both feel inspired to read it and find out lots more!

If you’re looking for a great family day out then I think this exhibition is well worth a visit, its a superb exhibition full of absolutely amazing artefacts and really is one of those exhibitions which everyone will remember forever. Once you’ve enjoyed the exhibition itself there is plenty to do in the area; the National Army Museum is within walking distance and just one stop on the tube will take you to the V & A, Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. I think its probably a really good idea to book up in advance, if you’re not close to London why not make a weekend of it?

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh presented by Viking Cruises is open now at the Saatchi Gallery until 3 May. To purchase tickets, please visit: www.tutankhamun-london.com

Disclaimer; We were invited on a press preview and given free tickets. I’d have happily purchased them and written about the exhibition regardless, my opinion has not been influenced, I genuinely think its a superb exhibition well worth the ticket price.

Claire Walsh

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