Magazine article Newsweek

King Tut-a-Comin'; Old Black Eyes Is Back, and His New Tour Is Generating Ticket Sales-And Controversy

Magazine article Newsweek

King Tut-a-Comin'; Old Black Eyes Is Back, and His New Tour Is Generating Ticket Sales-And Controversy

Article excerpt

Byline: Cathleen McGuigan and Andrew Murr

King Tut has been kicking up dust ever since British archeologist Howard Carter discovered his treasure-filled, 3,000-year-old tomb in 1922. That notorious unearthing--it supposedly unleashed a curse that doomed several people around the dig--inspired Hollywood horror movies and spurred on the art deco craze. The boy king's first U.S. tour, which began in 1976, was epic pop: it launched the era of museum blockbuster shows, with unprecedented crowds craning to see the tomb's gold and jeweled artifacts, while the cash registers ca-chinged in the nearby souvenir stalls. When you're talking Tut, the line between scholarship and showmanship has always been pretty thin.

So brace yourselves for a new wave of mummy mania, with a rumble of controversy. Next week "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" opens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the first stop of a two-year, four-city U.S. juggernaut that has critics--pardon the expression--tut-tutting. The issue isn't over the content of the exhibition--50 stunning artifacts of Tut's, as well as 70 items from his relatives' tombs in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. The problem is what's perceived as an unholy alliance between the not-for-profit museums hosting the show and the very-much-for-profit Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of L.A.'s Staples Center and the country's second largest rock promoter, which brokered the exhibit. With the Egyptian government requiring a $5 million fee from each venue (to aid in restoration projects), plus a sizable cut of ticket and souvenir sales, Anschutz is assuming a financial risk. So the museums have to bring in the bucks--which means the top ticket in L.A. will cost $30. L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight blasted the deal as "repulsive," while a New York Times editorial praised the Metropolitan Museum, which organized the first King Tut show, for passing on this one: "This exhibition essentially outsources the museum's real job--curating content--to a commercial company. …

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