A new take on Tut: AGOs latest boy king exhibit much broader than one in 79

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TORONTO - King Tut is set to seduce the city again, and this time, he's sharing the stage with his parents and fellow pharaohs.

Thirty years after the boy king's treasures sparked record attendance numbers at the Art Gallery of Ontario comes an almost entirely new exhibition of ancient Egyptian riches that put Tutankhamen's legacy into greater context, say organizers.
"In 1979, it was just King Tut objects," Matthew Teitelbaum, director and CEO of the AGO, said in an interview ahead of Tuesday's opening of "King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs."
"In this case, we're looking at a number of the pharaohs that preceded him and what happened after. So we've got stuff about his parents or his purported parents, whereas in 1979 it was just King Tut all the time."
With over 100 artifacts, the latest exhibition - which isn't showing in any other Canadian city - is more than twice the size of the '79 show. About half of them hail from Tut's tomb, which was discovered by British explorer Howard Carter in 1922.
Most of the items, representing 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history, had never visited North America prior to the current exhibition tour, which will hit Denver next.
Included are Tut's golden sandals, jewelry, statues and furniture, such as a small chair and bed on which he rested his tiny frame.
Also there are CT scans of the boy king who died under mysterious circumstances around age 18 or 19, and a three-metre statue of him.
"I think there's something in it for everyone," said Ronald Leprohon, the University of Toronto's resident Egyptology expert who worked on the '79 AGO exhibit and was a consultant on the new one.
"I think that little chair, for example, will really capture the children because they're going to go, 'Hey, I could sit on that! King Tut was my age!"'
Having objects belonging to the icon of the ancient world in the city again - three decades after the first show - is symbolic, said David Silverman, curator of the AGO exhibition.
"In ancient Egypt, the way it works is that a king rules for 30 years and then he gets rejuvenated by doing a sort of ceremonial dance and a race, and then everything in the kingdom is rejuvenated too," said Silverman, who also worked on the '79 show.
"So I figured this is King Tut's . . . jubilee festival and it's mine as well, so it's going to rejuvenate me."
The Egyptian government selected which pieces would leave the country to be part of the exhibition. They travelled to Toronto from Indianapolis in a truck and were overseen by "significant security," said Teitelbaum.
While on the road, the objects were protected in "the most extraordinary cases" that are climate-controlled and sealed, he added.
Visitors to the Toronto exhibition, running through April 18, 2010, will get to learn about the objects through a 3D movie and an audio guide narrated by Harrison Ford.
The AGO is also planning a lecture series by Egyptologists, as well as a series of Tut-inspired art classes for kids. Its restaurant is offering Egyptian and Middle East cuisine while its gift shop is selling Tutankhamen-inspired products.
"King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" is organized by the National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions.
The '79 Tut show drew 750,000 visitors to the AGO and inspired "Tut mania" headlines about its massive popularity.
For the latest exhibition, the gallery recently said it had sold 50,000 tickets in advance and Teitelbaum noted there is "good momentum" and organizers are "very optimistic."
He also said comparisons to the '79 show are "a double-edged sword."
"So many people will remember it in a certain way and they'll do the comparison thing," he said.
"They're two different exhibitions."

Organizations: Art Gallery of Ontario, Golden King, University of Toronto National Geographic

Geographic location: TORONTO, North America, Denver Egypt Indianapolis Middle East

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