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Treasures of Tutankhamun

November 17, 1976 – March 15, 1977
West Building Ground Floor, Central Gallery, Galleries G-8 through G-19, Sales Area, Space 11 (12,000 sq. ft.)

Installation view of Treasures of Tutankhamun, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 55 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun included the boy-king's solid gold funeral mask, a gilded wood figure of the goddess Selket, lamps, jars, jewelry, furniture, and other objects for the afterlife. This exhibition established the term "blockbuster." A combination of the age-old fascination with ancient Egypt, the legendary allure of gold and precious stones, and the funeral trappings of the boy-king created an immense popular response. Visitors waited up to 8 hours before the building opened to view the exhibition. At times the line completely encircled the West Building.

Organization: The installation, designed by Gaillard Ravenel, Mark Leithauser, and George Sexton, recreated the initial discovery of the dark tomb entrance and storage areas by presenting the objects in approximately the same order in which they were found. Photomurals of 1922 excavation scenes and contemporary newspaper accounts evoked the excitement of the discovery.

Sponsor: The exhibition was supported by gifts from Exxon Corporation and the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust, matched by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Federal insurance was provided under the new Arts and Artifacts Indemnification Act, effective January 19, 1976. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, holder of the original excavation photographs, organized the exhibition and managed the tour to other American cities.

Attendance: 835,924

Catalog: Treasures of Tutankhamun, by I.E.S. Edwards. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.

Other Venues: Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago, April 14–August 15, 1977
New Orleans Museum of Art, September 15, 1977–January 15, 1978
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 15–June 15, 1978
Seattle Art Museum, July 15–November 15, 1978
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 15, 1978–April 15, 1979
M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, June 11–September 30, 1979