“Treasures of Tutankhamun is more than an exhibition, it’s a cultural phenomenon,” wrote Seattle Times art critic Deloris Tarzan in July 1978, days before a trove of 55 artifacts from King Tut’s tomb made its Seattle debut. That’s no hyperbole: The boy king was causing a stir nationally, as his alabaster casket, gilded dagger, and golden burial mask traveled from port to port, prompting a run on pyramid ashtrays and scarab paperweights. To prepare for the exhibit, Seattle Center underwent a $19.6 million renovation, and the city called on former World’s Fair GM Ewen Dingwall to manage the chaos that comes when royalty’s in town. The final numbers: $1 admission, $1.25 million budget, and 1,293,203 visitors to Tut’s traveling tomb—the largest crowd ever for a single event in Seattle.
Consider this King Tut’s farewell tour. Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, the modern incarnation of the 1970s exhibit, will return to Egypt for good after its Seattle stay beginning May 24. And though we’re not expecting a revival of Cleopatra hairstyles this time around, expect to see something new, even if you walked through the treasure trove in 1978.
On tour since November 2008, this exhibit boasts twice as many artifacts as before: roughly 100 pieces from Tut’s tomb and its surrounding excavation sites, including the bust of Akhenaten, King Tut’s father, and a 10-foot quartzite statue of the young pharaoh that’s the largest likeness ever unearthed. Several pieces are familiar—a ceremonial wooden leopard’s head, and a canopic coffin for Tut’s organs—while others reveal new insight courtesy of twenty-first-century technology. Tut’s mummy forever rests in the Valley of the Kings, but a CT scan, on display here, reveals that the boy king had a recessed chin and quite the overbite.
Archaeologists have also uncovered the artifacts of several of Tut’s ancestors and successors, lending an additional 2,000 years of Egyptian history (and a bit more glamour) to this exhibit. The glowing gold funerary mask of Psusennes I, who ruled Egypt some 300 years after Tutankhamun, is stunning, like an unexpected trip through the vaults of Fort Knox. And then there’s the sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s beloved cat, proving there’s room in the afterlife for your pets.
But has Tut mania passed for good? Ticket prices aren’t the charitable $1 they used to be—multiply that by 15, to start. And Tut’s record-setting attendance was challenged—twice—in the past year by 150 Picassos at Seattle Art Museum and a collection of Harry Potter film props and costumes at Pacific Science Center. Only time will tell if mummies can compete with Muggles. Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, May 24–Jan 6, Pacific Science Center, 206-443-2001; pacsci.org
• • • • •
Susie J. Lee: Of Breath and Rain
In Lee’s solo museum debut (marking the departure of Frye curator Robin Held), one of Seattle’s most innovative mixed-media artists restages an immersive electronic rainstorm. Feb 18–Apr 15, Frye Art Museum, 206-622-9250; fryemuseum.org
MOHAI History Exhibit: Celebrating Century 21
The three-exhibit series presents 129 years of American World’s Fairs, artifacts from MOHAI’s Seattle 1962 collection, and photography by the Young Social Entrepreneurs. Apr 21–Oct 21, Seattle Center, 206-324-1126; seattlehistory.org
NFFTY Future of Film Expo
Tucked into the National Film Festival for Talented Youth is a two-day event featuring speakers, workshops, and panels for filmmakers and film lovers interested in talking shop. Apr 27 & 28, Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, 206-905-8400; nffty.org
Seattle International Film Festival
The 38th-annual cinema smorgasbord—showing nearly 400 films to over 155,000 attendees—returns with more shorts, docs, features, and celebrity appearances. May 17–June 10, various venues, 206-324-9996; siff.net
With the use of ambrotypes—a nineteenth-century wet-plate photo process that requires its subjects to sit for one (very) long minute—the Seattle photographer creates timeless portraits of local artists and art critics. May 17–June 30, Greg Kucera Gallery, 206-624-0770; gregkucera.com