Walk Like an Egyptian: King Tut Fever Hits Houston, the MFAH

Dale Benson, chief preparator for the Museum of Fine Arts, hangs an MFAH "sticker" on Anubis.
Dale Benson, chief preparator for the Museum of Fine Arts, hangs an MFAH "sticker" on Anubis.
All photos by Brittanie Shey

It was a welcoming fit for a king. Traffic snarled with rubberneckers and bystanders' cameras snapped this morning as contractors with Arts & Exhibitions International installed an stunning 25-foot-tall, seven-ton statue of the Egyptian god Anubis in front of the Museum of Fine Arts' Caroline Wiess Law Building.

Anubis was the ancient Egyptians' jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife. The statue, a replica, was nonetheless impressive, dangling from a crane next to construction workers whose hard hats only came up to his knees. Today's installation was meant to drum up enthusiasm for the exhibition Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. Tickets for the exhibit are on sale starting today, just in time for this weekend's Museum District Day festivities.

Just think, the ancients did this with nothing more than levers and ropes.
Just think, the ancients did this with nothing more than levers and ropes.

The exhibit itself, which is still in the installation phase, runs October 16 through April 15 of next year. Timed-entry tickets start at a whopping $25 for non-members and can be purchased online starting today at KingTut.org or in person at the museum.

The exhibition features 50 objects from Tut's tomb and 80 more objects from various Egyptian kings and queens of antiquity. It does not, however, feature Tut's body.

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If you decide to buy tickets, be prepared to face a massive crowd. Mark Lach, senior vice president of Arts & Exhibitions International and creative director of the King Tut exhibit, said the boy king's wares have broken ticket sales records nearly everywhere they've been.

"So many people want to travel to Egypt. Now Egypt has come to Houston," he said. "This exhibit will go to one other city after Houston, and then these objects will return to Egypt forever."

Lach, whose official bio lists Tut's tomb in Egypt as a major source of inspiration, talked about the King Tut craze of the 1970s, from the tour his relics made of various museums between 1972 and 1979 to Steve Martin's infamous Saturday Night Live skit. He also said recent political upheaval in Egypt is unlikely to affect the safekeeping of the antiquities, but when they might tour the world again is unknown.

"They are ordained to travel by the Supreme Council of Antiquities. It is their view that these items belong not only to Egypt, but also to the world," he said.

As for the Anubis statue? "He's been all around the world, as King Tut has," Lach said.


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