The Art of Death

Last Thursday a new exhibition “Mummies of the World” was launched in Los Angeles.  The largest single showing of mummies in history, it will tour America for three years.  The exhibition emphasises that mummification (natural or embalmed) was a global occurrence rather than solely an Egyptian practice.

Am I alone in feeling that human remains should not be displayed in this way?  During my two Egyptian visits there were plenty of opportunities to see mummies, as the guides and custodians went out of their way to point them out.  (My guides were under strict instructions not to show me any!)  Obviously many tourists are keen to see them, and even my own friends were amazed that I did not want to see the mummy of Tutankhamun.

I appreciate that the art of ancient Egypt shows how important the rituals of death were within the culture, but that doesn’t mean we need to see every example of mummification.  I salute the new museum in Luxor, that has a separate “mummy room”, giving visitors the choice of whether or not to view.

I don’t question the scientific benefits of the study of mummies, but that doesn’t give us the right to gawp.   These are people’s relatives!  I would not dream of putting my own deceased relatives on public view, and neither do I have any wish to look at anybody else’s. 

In the interest of giving a balanced post, here’s an article about the exhibition.

What do you think?

About Jackie Garner

Wildlife artist.
This entry was posted in Art of Ancient Egypt and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Art of Death

  1. Citybird says:

    When I visited the Cairo museum a guard kept urging me towards a cofin whose lid was ajar revealing the mummy inside. By his smirk I could see he wanted to shock me – there was nothing artistic or educational about the mummy being visible.

    But really, does that matter? Art shocks all the time, and is a mummy in an Egypt museum or US exhibition worse than a shark in formaldehyde? Certainly the unfortunate subject’s nearest and dearest aren’t going to be offended.

    I can’t remember who said it (apart from one of my college lecturers) but I’ve always liked the tenet “aestheticism can be measured by the response it evokes”. Better to shock or repulse than get no response at all.

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