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The King (Tut) Is in the Building!

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What do you do when you discover royalty has just taken up residence in the neighborhood? Throw a party, of course! It was all feathers and fringe as the Flappers and Pharaohs Bash took hold of the Denver Art Museum Friday to honor the arrival of Tutankhamun. As the band played The Duke, festive femmes with legs akimbo, danced the Charleston, (candy) cigarette girls wandered, while Roaring 20s clad guests raised a glass to the Boy King in Denver's own angular wonder, the Hamilton Building.

After a delightful welcome by DAM Director, Christoph Heinrich, world-renowned archeologist and Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass engaged the crowd with tales of Tut and a rhapsody on a life of constant discovery. Onward to the gallery as we 550 were the first to preview the pithy exhibit.

Having missed the Treasures of Tutankhamun tour of the late 70s, my only context for comparison is not Tut specific but from countless hours in the Egyptology wing at the Metropolitan. Entering the DAM exhibit, you gather in the antechamber while the voice of Harrison Ford narrates the backdrop video. Dramatically, the music swells, the doors open to reveal a large Hollywood-meets-Egypt mural. (I don't know what I was expecting, a pile of gold maybe?) Into the Hall of the Great Pharaohs where the ancient rock stars dwell, waiting to reveal the story of their heyday. Viewing the kings' reigns side-by-side, I was struck by how the facial structures changed through time, the imprint of our human family cross-pollinating perhaps? In a moment of inspired display, the captivating red granite statue of Hatshepsut kneels on a pedestal in the center of a room. This glorious beauty is placed eye-to-piercing-eye with the viewer and, rudely, I couldn't help but stare. The Pharaoh stared back, holding my gaze for an eternity. I was stilled, as if to listen to a secret only I was privy to, and softened to take it in. Finally I broke the staring contest and let my eyes fall to read her bio. She was a queen, the symbol of endurance and, like art can do, makes perfect sense once you let it in.

Rounding through the galleries there are a few eye-popping surprises and though the exhibit seems a bit slight it's well balanced between information and artifact. Beautifully lit, the interplay of ancient stone, calcite, granite and gold is captivating and the overall experience is quite sensual.

Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs runs June 29, 2010 through January 9, 2011 at Denver Art Museum. 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy Denver CO
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Me, Natalie Rekstad-Lynn, and Carmel Koeltzow