Show me something beautiful at the Saatchi Gallery – Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh

exhibit review

I’m celebrating a week of nice gifts from friends, starting with a wonderful morning at the Saatchi Gallery.

Tutankhamun Exhibition - Saatchi Gallery

Commemorating the 100-year anniversary of Howard Carter’s monumental discovery in the world of history and archaeology, the massive, five-room exhibit is comprised of only a fraction of the items contained in the tomb. The artifacts will all return to Cairo for good later this year, finding their permanent home back on native soil at the Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

I love all things to do with Ancient Egypt, and have studied hieroglyphs and Ancient Egyptian religion for the last 18 years. These studies have had their starts and stops of course, and by no means do I consider myself an authority on the subject, though I am much more than a passive admirer. Going to exhibits of Ancient Egyptian artifacts has always felt like some kind of homecoming — a kind of reunion with a great love.

There is, of course, an element of guilt to going to these exhibits…we are ooh’ing and ahh’ing things pulled out of someone’s grave. I’ve never liked that part, but in hopes of leveling the spiritual playing ground, I’m always respectful when I go. I bow my head and give thanks, do my little prayers of recognition, and don’t distribute pictures. I did take a few for my own study and enjoyment.

Besides, I’m not going to ruin the surprises for you 🙂

The exhibit opens with a beautiful video describing the life and times of King Tutankhamun, and how his reign affected Egypt’s history. From there, you go through five huge rooms full of everything from jewelry to coffers, calcite vases to drinkware and boats. I especially loved the structure of the exhibit which follows passages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, taking you on a conceptual and visual journey that explains why all of these things were vital to include inside the King’s tomb.

My favorite part of all was the end. The exhibit closes with a huge statue of Tutankhamun made in quartzite. The positioning in the final room is powerful and poetic, much like the shadow it casts on the wall:

The exhibit is now in its final weeks, running until May 3rd. Tickets and further info here. If you can’t make it to London for the show, there are some wonderful videos on YouTube here.

Run In the Dark With Me at Store X – Other Spaces by UVA

exhibit review

I first heard of United Visual Artists (UVA) in 2014 when I went to see their beautiful Momentum exhibit at the Barbican.

Momentum at the Barbican

Now, UVA is back with another feast for the ears, eyes, and the part of your brain that controls phantom feeling. Other Spaces combines unique audio visual elements that take you on a journey deep into your body and also out into the world.

Immersiveness is everything in today’s art and entertainment trends. I came armed with a willingness to step outside myself for a while and see what happens when dark and light dare me to dance. I also came armed with a little Samsung S8, which has a nice camera but not nice enough to demonstrate for you what the lightplays actually look like. So, I lovingly borrowed these from Londonist:

There are many standout moments to this show, but my favorite was the sound graphs of animals in their native habitats all over the world. Some were terrifying, like getting to hear a jaguar, which triggered a very primal urge to hide. Others were moving, like the aural comparison between the presence of birds near a lake 5 and 10 years apart, demonstrating the change in the landscape and the birds’ population.

Not bad for the ol’ S8…

After a half hour of these stylish soundbaths in the dark, kept company by whales, birds, monkeys, or synth’y sighs, I came back out into the streets of London a relaxed yet pensive woman. What will the experience do for you?

Other Spaces is a free art exhibit at Store X – 180 Strand running until 8 December.

Don’t Break Anything at Rare Treasures of the Earth

exhibit review, Let's Go To, nice things

The Rare Treasures of the Earth exhibition opened today at Christie’s here in London. Promising “spectacular fancy coloured diamonds alongside rare rocks and minerals”, you know I had to be front and center at 10 o’clock this morning.

Although it’s a bit smaller than I expected, the exhibition doesn’t disappoint. Upon entry into the space, you’re greeted by pieces up for auction and other specimens for display, including some truly stunning (and big!) tourmaline, quartz, and my beloved amethyst.

“It’s always amazing to me that these things haven’t been ‘designed’, they just come out of the ground. A light from within.”

I overheard someone say that and it’s a sentiment shared by many. The monetary value of gemstones is human made, but the awe that value is based on is as natural as the sun. There’s a mystical quality to such precious stones; a curious balance of natural geometry and refracting light that gives pause to anyone who notices them. Also, the fact that they’re usually hidden underground, in caves or within otherwise “normal-looking” rocks, adds to their treasured reputation.

The irony is that while colored gems and crystals are the true rarities, no stone draws a crowd like a diamond. Naturally, this gem is the focus of the exhibition. Some of the allure of diamonds comes from years of marketing in popular culture (which I won’t get into here), associations with class and certainly with money, but at the end of the day, you just can’t look away from the winking sparkle of a diamond.

Even when it’s fake. (I’ll let you decide.)

The Hope Diamond, Millenium Star, Eureka, and the massive Cullinan are in the rockstar pantheon of diamonds for their sizes, shapes, and rare colors. Story and ownership are the primary tools in the world of gems. Once a skilled craftsperson discovers the stone’s most expressive cut, it changes hands over and over again through time, holding history, legend, emotion, violence — and even curses.

Whether you just want to stare longingly or learn something new, the exhibition has something for everyone. A number of displays go through where diamonds and other gems are typically found, how they are cut, graded, and what DeBeers is doing to keep the business of mining and selling diamonds as sustainable as possible.

All in all, it’s a beautiful and informative exhibition with much more to see than what I took photos of here. Rare Treasures of the Earth is on until 12 November at Christie’s London. (Just don’t break anything like I almost did, when I was inches from walking into a knee-high quartz. It probably would have hurt me more than I could have hurt it, but you never know.)

For more on the how, why, ooh and ah of the world’s most beautiful gems, I highly recommend this Nova documentary: