New Exhibition Shows Why No One Does Ancient Egypt Like The Met


The world's centuries-long fascination with the culture, treasure, and rituals of ancient Egypt shows no sign of abating, and no institution in New York City has more practice and does a better job at putting on a good show of these strange, beautiful, and wonderful works than the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to hosting the NYC leg of the massive King Tut tour in 1978–starring that 240-pound coffin made of solid gold and ushering in the era of the museum blockbuster show–the Met's permanent collection of ancient Egyptian art holds some 26,000 pieces, most of which can be seen any day of the week in the museum's 39-room wing devoted to this remarkable era in history. Basically, the folks at the Met know their Egyptian antiquities, so when they announce a brand-new exhibition of a largely unexamined era highlighted by many objects never before seen in the United States, well… seems like a no-brainer to check it out.


Ancient Egypt Transformed at the Metropolitan Museum

The exhibition is called Ancient Egypt Transformed, and focuses on the Middle Kingdom, a four-century-long period, from approximately 2030 to 1650 BC, that followed the empire's reunification under Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II and saw a cultural and artistic explosion unlike any other in its history. Taking over the largest of the museum's galleries–the Tisch Galleries, on the second floor and covering some 15,000 square feet–Ancient Egypt Transformed brings together 230 objects from collections around the world for a comprehensive survey of life during this largely peaceful time in Egypt's history. The work itself ranges from the expected monumental stone sculptures of gods and kings (who were kind of "junior gods"), usually missing their noses, to pieces of jewelry and wooden diorama-like scenes of everyday life. And, naturally, there is a mummy.


What To Expect At The Metropolitan Museum

I am a million miles away from being even an amateur Egyptologist, but what struck me most of the Ancient Egypt Transformed at the Met were the ordinary, intricately carved details included in so many of the scenes, as if the long peacetime had given artists the luxury of honing their craft, and experimenting with a less rudimentary look. Almost comical-looking pig heads sit on platters, waiting to be devoured, as diners seem preoccupied with sniffing the flowers. An offering bearer wrestles with four pintail ducks, the detail–the birds' teeth, the bearers' fingernails–astonishing. A shipload of wooden rowers power their sculpted craft down the Nile (I'm guessing). And the more traditionally ancient-Egyptian-looking works are pretty mesmerizing too, from miniature obelisks and the bust of the crocodile god Sobek to the mammoth, 10-foot-tall stone figure of an unknown pharaoh, too big to put in the Tisch Galleries, and so living temporarily in the Met's Great Hall.  


For More Information On Ancient Egypt Transformed at the Metropolitan Museum

Ancient Egypt Transformed will be at the Metropolitan Museum through January 24, 2016. The Met is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and until 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.


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