Turn left on University Avenue heading towards Union and youll see the Art Gallery of Ontario. No surprises there—the AGO has stood on the same spot since 1910, and buildings dont generally up and vanish. What will surprise passers-by is the gargantuan statue of Anubis greeting visitors and the many flags waving from streetlights, proclaiming King Tuts visit to Canada.
The King himself still rests in his tomb in Egypt, as fragile as youd expect a two-thousand year-old corpse to be, and unfortunately the boy kings most famous relics—such as his death mask and sarcophagus—arent strong enough to travel overseas. However, the AGOs new exhibit—running until April—does feature one hundred artefacts, about half of which originate from Tutankhamens tomb. The Egyptian government chose the collection items that it thought would survive the journey and best represent the royal life of Egypt, as well as the life of ancient Egyptians in general.
The collection includes several unique pieces that Pharaoh-philes wont find at the ROMs regular exhibit, such as a carving in progress that reveals the work process of Egyptian artisans, an array of shabti figurines and a rich collection of statues, including one of Tutankhamen that was later claimed by subsequent pharaohs. Fine jewellery, hieroglyphic-riddled slabs and domestic items round the collection off.
Although the AGO hosted a similar exhibition in 1979, gallery-goers will find several strange aspects to the AGOs current exhibit. Harrison Ford stars in an audio tour of the place, the gift shop offers plush nemes (the fancy striped headdresses) and childrens books along the lines of Tickle King Tuts Toes, and several looping videos will continually command anyone in earshot to Enter the tomb of Tutankhamen! accompanied by an orchestral flurry.
Despite the cheesy wrapping, however, the AGO has delivered an extensive exhibition with an extensive educational and social aspect. The AGO has established supporting lectures, available at discount rates for students, and even a podcast by exhibit curator David Silverman elaborating the histories of specific King Tut artefacts, from canopic jars to ancient toilet seats. On the lighter side, the AGO website features an instructional dance video mimicking the angular pose used in Egyptian artwork and a photo-editing contest, where patrons dress Anubis in whatever whacky costumes they can imagine. This may seem like overkill, but the hooplah is understandable: the Egyptian government has declared this exhibit will be the last where they will allow artefacts to travel overseas.