34 SC Exhibitions Magazine 2016 As nation rockingly successful as the Trea sures of Tutankhamun tour of the late 1970s was no American city took Tut to its bosom more dearly than New York The Big Apple could claim an early if not quite ancient connection to the boy king it was a photog rapher affiliated with the city s Metropolitan Museum of Art Harry Burton who made Howard Carter s discoveries in The Valley of the Kings real to the world by document ing with his camera the archaeologist s ex cavation of the tomb Though Mr Burton was an Englishman he had since 1914 been employed by the Metropolitan and its Egyp tian Expedition in particular to photograph whatever discoveries the museum s team came across In November 1922 he was working with a Met sponsored excavation group when Mr Carter first glimpsed ev erywhere the glint of gold Quickly it was worked out that the museum would loan Mr Burton to Team Tutankhamun Fifty six years later the Metropolitan Mu seum was the last official stop on the epic 1970s tour s itinerary Tut mania had been building and building since the treasures had made landfall in America in 1976 and New York being by its nature an impatient kind of place the city was downright twitchy with excitement and anticipation Though the exhibiton did not open at the Met until 15th December 1978 the first tickets were made available in September That it rained that day didn t matter the line of eager NYC TUT The Big Apple and the Boy King An Ongoing Love Affair By DAVID KAMP Tut maniacs stretched down Fifth Avenue from the museum s entrance on 82nd Street all the way down to 59th Street The Met also anticipating a surge in tele phone orders took care to add extra phone lines and personnel to handle the rush not that these new hires were necessarily well schooled in matters Tutankhamun One woman calling in to the museum s hotline was surprised to hear an operator answer by proclaiming Trip to the moon Trip to the moon the woman asked Have they connected me to the planetari um No the operator said I can t pronounce that long name so I just say Trip to the moon Once the Tut show was actually open the lines to get into the Met became a subcul ture unto themselves rich material for cam era wielding news crews and local reporters The New York Times published an About New York column that led with the story of a woman whose husband began to suf fer chest pains as they were on the verge of gaining admittance to the exhibition Before bundling into an ambulance with him she sought assurance from museum officials that she could retake her place in line when her spouse s medical emergency was resolved In this same period an unnamed Met offi cial told the Associated Press Seeing Tut is the status symbol right now in this city It s even superseded sex A craze on this scale belongs more prop erly to the province of social pathology than to the realm of art criticism harrumphed the Times art critic Hilton Kramer who complained of being jostled by the crowds on his own turf when he showed up to do his job Nevertheless even Mr Kramer nev er the jolliest of critics proclaimed the exhi bition quite nice to look at In the 21st century another traveling ex hibition of artifacts from Tut s tomb Tut ankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pha raohs landed in New York drawing crowds at Discovery Times Square in 2010 And the exhibiton you re currently visiting The Discovery of King Tut with its exquisitely colorized versions of Harry Burton s photo graphs brings the Tut NYC relationship full circle But it s important to remember that New York City was only just emerging from a deep fiscal crisis when Tut paid his first fate ful visit in 1978 Back in 1975 the city s then mayor Abraham Beame and the then gov ernor of New York state Hugh Carey had traveled down to Washington to plead with President Gerald Ford for federal assistance for the nearly bankrupt city Mr Ford de murred telling the mayor and governor that the city was on its own prompting the infa mous New York Daily News headline FORD TO CITY DROP DEAD New York managed its way out of the cri sis but the city s recovery was still in a fragile state in the late 70s After the Tut show de parted the Met in April of 1979 the museum commissioned a survey that revealed to its officials everlasting pride that the Trea sures of Tutankhamun exhibition over the course of its New York stay pumped 111 million into the city s economy taking into account money spent by Tut goers on hotels restaurants shopping and transportation A professor of psychiatry at the city s Al bert Einstein College of Medicine was asked at the time to explain New York s embrace of the Tut relics He responded that the aston ishing purity of the art negates the death and dissolution surrounding it Most likely the professor was alluding to the mesmerising beauty of a bunch of objects that had been in point of fact originally assembled for fu nerary and burial purposes But he may as well have been talking about the near death and near dissolution of New York City itself and the way that King Tut in the sparkling beauty of his mask and the flights of imag ination he prompted had provided New Yorkers with the perfect pick me up Crowds gather outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the opening day Neal Boenzi The New York Times Redux laif of the exhibition December 20th 1978

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