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The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt

June 30 – October 14, 2002
East Building, Mezzanine, Northeast, and Upper Level, Northeast and North Bridge

Installation view of The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives

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

Overview: This exhibition exploring the ancient Egyptian concept of the afterlife included 143 objects on loan from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Luxor Museum of Ancient Art, and the site of Deir el-Bahari. Jewelry, painted reliefs, implements used in religious rituals, a sarcophagus, and an ancient painted model of the royal barge were included. Some of the objects had not previously been on public display and many had never been seen outside Egypt. A full-scale reproduction of the burial chamber of Thutmose III (1490-1436 B.C.) was fabricated for the exhibition.

The Quest for Immortality in Ancient Egypt, a ten-minute film produced by Carroll Moore for the National Gallery of Art, was shown continuously within the exhibition. A half-hour version of the film was shown most days at 12:30 p.m. in the large auditorium and continuously most afternoons in the small auditorium.

An audio tour of the exhibition was introduced by National Gallery of Art Director Earl A. Powell III and narrated by Deputy Director Alan Shestack. It featured discussion by guest curator Betsy M. Bryan and David O'Conner, professor of ancient Egyptian archaeology at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Visitors could enter the exhibition on a first-come, first-served basis. Advance passes timed on the half-hour also were available through Ticketmaster.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by United Exhibits Group, Copenhagen, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Cairo. It was conceived by Erik Hornung, professor emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Betsy M. Bryan, Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology and chair of the department of Near Eastern studies, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, was guest curator.

Sponsor: The exhibition was supported in part by Chevy Chase Bank. The film was made possible by HRH Foundation.

Attendance: 430,772

Catalog: The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt, edited by Erik Hornung and Betsy M. Bryan, with contributions by Betsy M. Bryan, Terence DuQuesne, Fayza Haikal, and Erik Hornung. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; Copenhagen, United Exhibits Group, 2002.

Brochure: The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2002.

Family Guide to The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2002.

Other Venues: Museum of Science, Boston, November 20, 2002–March 30, 2003
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, May 4–September 14, 2003
New Orleans Museum of Art, October 19, 2003–February 25, 2004
Milwaukee Public Museum, March 28–August 8, 2004
Denver Museum of Nature and Science, September 12, 2004–January 23, 2005
Guggenheim Hermitage, Las Vegas, March 5–July 31, 2005
Dayton Art Institute, September 1, 2005–January 3, 2006
Public Museum of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Michigan, January 28–May 7, 2006
Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, June 8–October 8, 2006
Portland Art Museum, November 5, 2006–March 4, 2007

Download a free PDF of the exhibition catalog (PDF 92.18MB)