Twenty Years on from the 1972 Tutankhamun Exhibition and finally I visit Egypt.

Even before my parents took my sister and I to the British Museum to see the 1972 Tutankahmun Exhibition I had already fallen under the spell of Ancient Egypt.

I still have my original collection of newspaper articles, souvenir extracts and a history magazine stuck in a scrapbook accompanied by an average 10 year old’s random commentary and drawings.

What on earth could ‘odds’ be? I can’t think in those days at 10 years old I’d have read about canopic jars because if I had I would have added a suitable birds-head lid to the pot and gleefully labelled it ‘Pots like this held intestines’ .

Incidentally, I can see now, as the front cover has come unglued, that this scrapbook had originally been used for a school project imaginatively called ‘Normans’. All trace of school Normans has gone and my obsession for all and anything Ancient Egyptian (a topic not covered at my village school) has instead filled the pages and still does, sort of, 50 years on.

Of course during the run up to the 1972 ‘blockbuster’ exhibition, although that term wasn’t used back then, there was plenty of press coverage. Serious articles in the Sunday broadsheets and specialist magazines were printed as well as the ubiquitous souvenir pull-out.

A special 35 page magazine cost 25p now available used/vintage ie secondhand for £4.39 and the Evening Standard Souvenir ‘Tutankhamun’ dated Saturday, May 6th 1972.

The 1972 exhibition consisted of fifty prize objects from Tutankhamun’s reign as the boy-king of Egypt (BC1361 to 1352). The artefacts had been lent by the Egyptian Government and made this the biggest Tutankhamun exhibition outside Egypt. Fifty objects to mark the 50 years since 1922 when the English archaeologist, Howard Carter, had discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb with the inner chamber still intact and undisturbed by grave robbers.

My inaccurate drawings of Ancient Egyptian symbols and a newspaper page showing how once again in a similar way to 1922 fashion jumped on the ‘Tut’ bandwagon.

Apparently the British Museum estimated that between 800 – 1000 per hour would pass through the turnstile with adults paying 50p and children 25p entrance fees. (So that cost my father £1.50!) I didn’t know at the time, but have read since, that the exhibition ran from 30th March to 30th September 1972, opening Mondays 3 pm to 9 pm, Tuesdays to Saturday 10 am to 9 pm and Sundays 2 pm to 6 pm with any profits going to Unesco’s fund to save the ancient temples of Philae from the waters of the Aswan Dam. (As a side note it’s interesting that the BM was open until 9 pm. I had thought evening opening was a 21st century innovation.)

Yours truly out during the evening whilst in Aswan. Sadly, though we didn’t take the helicopter tour (nowadays more usually a hot air balloon) to Abu Simbel to see the relocated temples saved from the dam waters.

Returning to the ‘treasures’ in my scrapbook I found an envelope with a special edition stamp which was also issued to mark the 50 year anniversary of the original 1922 discovery. (My goodness a stamp for 3p!)

UK stamp issued in 1972 marking the 50 year anniversary of the discovery in 1922 of the burial chamber of the boy-king Tuthankhamun.

Today turning the foxed pages and unfolding the fading newspaper pages all stuck in with the now yellowing and stick-less sellotape has reminded me just how keen I had been. You’d have thought I might have gone on to be an historian or even an archaeologist, but at 14 years old school history hit the Industrial Revolution and from being nearly top of the class I dropped to the very bottom in a year.

I personally don’t remember seeing much of this dramatic make-up in our village, but I do remember in later years, during Sixth Form, attending a fancy dress party and going as Cleopatra when really I should have gone as a true Ancient Eygptian, Nefertiti.

It was another 25 years before I seriously returned to history when I enrolled at UEA to study Art History. Of course you never really forget your childhood passions and eventually 20 years after seeing the 1972 Tutankhamun Exhibition I did, finally get to visit Egypt. We saw the Pyramids, the Sphinx, took the slow night train down to Aswan and travelled back to Cairo after stopping off at Luxor and the Valley of Kings. I still remember visiting the Cairo Museum strolling straight up to the cabinet displaying the gold death mask of Tutankhamun with no other tourists in the room. It was a pole opposite experience to my attempt to see the mask back in 1972 at the BM. After queuing for a couple of hours, I had struggled in the crush of adults and after the briefest of glimpses of the iconic mask been swept on through the exhibition to the next object.

Yours truly again this time at the bottom of a pyramid in Giza (left) and (right) beneath the columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall within the Karnak temple complex, Luxor. (1992)

Of course, since 1972 attending blockbuster, popular exhibitions has changed with the introduction of limited numbers and timed entrances. Then along came Covid and we now have greatly reduced numbers, strictly timed tickets, hand gel stations and one-way systems along with mask wearing. Last week when I made my first post-Covid lockdown visit to the Ipswich Museum it was so quiet the staff outnumbered the visitors.

The Vulture, Egyptian symbol for divine power and hieroglyph for the letter ‘A’ with the sound ‘ah’. And, I have no idea why I used wool and glue to make a record of hieroglyphs for my scrapbook, but this was the only example which was instantly recognisable.

Past Times in Hotter Climes

The last time I reread A S Byatt’s fascinating novel ‘Possession’, I chose to read it in November. During the course of the story the Victorian heroine, Christabel, visits her relatives in Brittany arriving in the Autumn.

“NOVEMBER 1 TOUSSAINT
Today the storytelling begins. Everywhere in Brittany the storytelling begins at Toussaint, in the Black Month. It goes on through December, the Very Black Month, as far as the Christmas story.”

So, A S Byatt informs us that the Bretons know November as the ‘Black Month’. Well, so far this November in East Anglia the weather has been very grey, very gloomy and very grim. Even the chilling north-easterly wind cutting across the reed beds of the Norfolk Broads hasn’t shifted the blanket of grey cloud. It’s miserable so I’ve found some old photos taken in the searing heat – the Middle East, Spain in August and a London Studio (??!!!), well it looks hot.

My sister and I as little tots in the shade, Fahaheel Bazaar.
My sister and I as little tots in the shade, Fahaheel Bazaar.

13 years later hot summer evening Altea, Spain.
13 years later hot summer evening Altea, Spain.
Mike Berkovsky's 1967 fantastic photo of Jimi Hendrix looking so hot he looks on fire!
Mike Berkovsky’s 1967 fantastic photo of Jimi Hendrix
looking so hot he looks on fire!




















Ah yes, the ‘Black Month’ nothing to do with this month’s Internet gift shopping, but it is interesting how words have evolved new meanings with international resonance in cyber space.

Grayson Perry Artist – Raymond Loewy Designer

children being creative
Creativity in Progress – A Junior School Class Textile Prints with Freehand Additions.
Grayson Perry delivered his fourth and final Reith Lecture this morning, I Found Myself in the Art World and it was another fine entertaining, but this time more poignant reflection on the nature of being an artist in the Contemporary Art World. During the course of the lecture he drew our attention again to the playful creativity of children and how an artist strives to nurture yet protect that core of their psyche where serious play generates art.

good bad ugly Jake Dinos Chapman
‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (2007) – Jake and Dinos Chapman. Installation for Sculpture in the City 2013.

Grayson Perry continued that artists’ works often express some difficulties they have had in their lives. He suggested that the creative process allows them to work through significant transformational events in the act of producing their art. A process that is recognised by some artists as they overtly use these events. However, other artists are psychologically unaware of these experiences, but still nevertheless they are the engine of their artistic production. He continued that this need to express oneself was not confined to the professional artist, but was evident in ‘outsider art’ such as that of the Chicago janitor, Henry Darger, and Prehistoric Art such as the cave paintings of early humans.

Henry Darger book illustration
Example of Outsider Art – Book illustration by the Chicago hospital janitor, Henry Darger.

Perhaps, we should also include amateur art in this discussion as although certainly not an asset class, for the artist the work is a valuable vehicle for creative expression and its production is often of psychological benefit.

pastel picture register office wedding
The Signing – Valeria Willett. (1997) Pastel
Big Ben pavement
‘Big Ben Interrupted’ Unknown, 2013,
Pavement Art Embankment, London.





















As with the other lectures in this series an interesting little titbit came out during the final Q&A. A Central St Martin’s student asked about career prospects for a young artist and Grayson replied that it was always good to have a plan B. When quizzed about his own plan B, Grayson said he thought that he would have gone into advertising on the visual design side. As I was listening I thought how interesting and what a coincidence as today, 5 November, is the birthday of Raymond Loewy.


Loewy logos
Some famous Loewy logos.
A product’s signature!

Grayson Perry had quoted Loewy, a great industrial designer and graphic artist, in his third lecture when contemplating the challenge of the avant-garde. He had mentioned the Loewy principle, MAYA, “most advanced yet acceptable” when discussing a new artist’s offering to the art world and in a way this reflects Grayson’s own challenge to the art world when he made POTS.

Grayson-Perry-Pots

22 November 2013 -ADDITIONAL INTERESTING COMMENTARY regarding the impact of Grayson Perry and his art from the Historian Prof. Lisa Jardine

Valentina – Rocket Girl

Sunday, 16th June 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. She was working in a textile factory with a passion for her hobby of parachuting when she was selected for the Soviet space programme.

Valentina Cosmonaut
Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 1963

I don’t remember this world event, but I do remember watching the moon landings.

Astronaut
NASA Astronaut in full spacesuit.

And, as a child of the space age I’ve been reminded of all that 1960s energy for the ultra, ultra modern, space-inspired fashions. There were strangely sculptured white outfits and various mini dresses of silver and white most notably by the French designers Courrèges and Ungaro, and the Spanish designer Paco Rabanne. I think zany was the word.

Oops there is a little person here looking up to space, but not too happy about being dressed up in head to toe silver twinkle. Fast forward a decade into the future and she will be a science fiction fan enjoying her A Level Physics Project – “From Black Holes to Wormholes”. Ah, the mysteries of life!

Oversized Shirts and Wellington Boots

School holidays, of course I remember long, hot days on the dunes and the beach, inventing intense and convoluted adventure dramas with my sister.

Palms and sandy beach
Pirate Ready Beach

We were pirates with oversized shirts and wellington boots, but I remember being more interested in action rather than costumes. We were lucky, we were left to our own devices whilst our father fished and our mother read or sketched. Okay, we didn’t have a sun-drenched, desert island as our backdrop, but the Suffolk coast in the late 1960s was a quiet, relatively empty place open to our imaginations. More recently my daughter has enjoyed being a pirate, but not at the seaside.  It has been ‘Pirate Parties’, particularly following the success of ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ films.


So, now, here we are on the Suffolk coast again in the 21st century. It is the school holidays again.

What? Dressing up? Nah – just chill with the phone.

Bored children.
The Three Graces . . . bored on the beach.