King Tut at LACMA: "He Gave His Life for Tourism"

— by Caroline on Crack

The tomb treasures of King Tutankhamun return to the U.S. for the first time in 26 years. The only thing I remember about the exhibition’s first visit to the States in 1979 was Steve Martin dressed like an Egyptian and singing about how “King Tut” fever swept the nation and people stood in long lines to see the boy king and his tomb treasures.

From what I can tell, this mummy’s return hasn’t generated the same craze. Yes, the traveling exhibition sold out in its first six weeks of arriving in L.A. and continues to draw crowds to LACMA, but you still don’t see a resurgence of sales of King Tut memorabilia or an SNL parody for that matter. Nevertheless, I’m somewhat into Egyptology so I got my ticket a month in advance.

Our viewing time was at 3pm so we decided to try and get there by 2:15 having heard that the viewing time actually means the time you should get in line by. Sure enough we still had to wait a bit. Fortunately, the line moved pretty fast, 20 minutes to get in the exhibit. But first we had to check all bags and camera phones at the coat check, and then purses were searched at the museum door.

Finally inside, we were ushered into a dark room in a group, evoking memories of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion as everyone stood there waiting for the museum volunteer to tell them what to do. There weren’t any exhibits around, just black curtains and one big TV screen. So we proceeded to watch a commercial about the exhibit. Then music soared and a spotlight revealed a lone wooden bust of Tut at the end of a hallway. Everyone oohed at the same time, it was funny.

So we proceeded to move in a large group and join all the other large groups that arrived before us through a number of different galleries depicting Tut’s family, the religion, everyday life, etc. etc. and finally King Tut himself. The rooms were crowded with people so it was sorta difficult to get close to the artifacts. There were signs affixed to the glass cases over each item and right in front of them describing what they were but it would have been nice if they were displayed on all sides of the cases so that people wouldn’t have to step on each other’s toes to read. Toward the end of the exhibit, it got so tiring having to navigate through the crowds and squint to read all the signs that my fascinated gaze downgraded to an indifferent glance. I had kinda wished I spent the $6 to rent an audio tour.

In the end, walking through the exhibit took about an hour and a half. (The people in our group with the audio tour took longer.) I walked out of there promising myself to read about Howard Carter, the discoverer of the tomb, but when I walked into the adjoining King Tut store at the end, all I saw were inflatable sarcophagi and King Tut shot glasses….and one big $50 National Geographic book on Tut and his treasures.

Was I a bit disappointed by the exhibit? Yeah. Sure, he was 19 when he died and no one really knows how, and his treasures which survived thousands of years were discovered by accident. But the intrigue surrounding the king wasn’t really self-sustaining in the actual exhibit. Maybe it was because I was tired and thirsty and there wasn’t any water fountains or available benches. Maybe it was because the energy of all those people in small rooms overpowered the aura of the show. Or maybe it was just because there wasn’t an actual mummy at the end but rather a projection of one.

But if you’re dying to check it out and would rather make an evening out of it, the museum offers “Tut After Dark.” Spooky! There are special evening hours Labor Day Weekend. I’m not going to say the crowds will be less but it could be a fun date thing to do: dinner, drinks and Tut. You can ogle art and each other through glass cases and walk arm in arm through the galleries of gold artifacts.

Sept. 2 – 8pm, 9pm and 10pm – (Gallery closes at 11:15 am)
Sept. 3 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm – (Gallery closes at 12:15 am)
Sept. 4 – 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm – (Gallery closes at 12:15 am)
Sept. 5 – 8pm – (Gallery closes at 9:15 pm)

_5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
$5 Parking off Ogden

Exhibit runs through November 15th.
Adult: $25 Monday – Friday
$30 Saturday and Sunday__