Vienna vs Egypt and ethical advertising

Last weekend the GOFA and I took a rare break visiting family and enjoying Melbourne’s delights. It was a chance to take a copy of my book, finally published, down to my parents and spend a little time reacquainting ourselves.

Melbourne gave us a taste of winter’s tail, with overcast skies, a little drizzle and a brisk breeze, but nothing like it can be. Two exhibitions were on our mind and we debated about whether we had time to see both. Thinking we may not and knowing that we had other expenses that weekend to absorb, we opted for the exhibition at the Melbourne Museum, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. Tickets were far from cheap at $35 and we considered whether to skip it once we realised the cost. The museum and National Gallery of Victoria are not terribly close together and we had limited time before we were to go out that evening, so Tut it was.

The exhibition consists of 10 small galleries, the first five devoted to Tut’s ancestors and the period of the pharaohs. The remaining five small galleries are devoted to Tut himself. There are some lovely artefacts and it is a highly polished display, including a sarcophagus of one of his non-royal but patently well favoured ancestors, given the extravagance of the burial. We wandered through the displays for about 1 ½ hours until we reached the final gallery, which, quite frankly, I found an immense let down. There was an excellent video display of Tut’s burial showing how each casket fit within the next. There were small items found within Tut’s bindings and on his body, such as head dress and a necklace, but there was little else in this room to make me go “Wow!”

So what was the let down? The death mask. It simply was not there, not even a good copy or image of the mask was shown. There was no sarcophagus. There was a platform onto which was displayed still images of Tut’s opened sarcophagus, viewed from above. The images were a succession of shots showing where certain items were found, such as the necklace.

I was very disappointed at the anit-climax. The advertising billed it as about Tutankhamun and the pharaohs, so I expected a mixture, but as the main draw card they played upon in the adverts (first name, separate line, much larger font size, different font colour) and they had used an image of a “golden coffinette” that looked deceptively like the funerary mask, that is what I expected to see.

Had I known that Tut’s death mask was not included in the exhibition, would I have gone? Quite simply, with only two days in town and limited spending money, the answer is no. When others asked about the exhibition and I told them that the mask was absent, they agreed that they would not pay so much to gain entry and be corralled like sheep (that’s what it felt like to both of us) to enter in the first place unless the mask was there. I do, quite frankly, feel misled by the curators on this exhibition, based upon the advertising. Admittedly, nowhere in the website does it say that Tut’s mask would be part of the exhibition. If you read the feedback it is explicitly mentioned, but only when others have drawn attention to the fact. Equally, the advertising does not mention the absence of the mask and the use of the image of the coffinette (which is beautiful, but not terribly large and certainly not the mask) as the main drawcard in the advertising I consider to be very misleading.

With our activities after Tut being less costly than expected, the GOFA and I decided that we would go see the Vienna exhibition at the NGV after all the next day before we flew home, in hopes that it would satisfy our more artistic desires. There, we saw original works by Gustav Klimt, whom I have very much decided is one of my favourite artists, as well as a painting by Moll that spurred the GOFA onto his own artistic pursuits as a younger man. We were not corralled into a small space to enter the exhibition and we wandered back and forth between the artworks that absorbed us totally. The GOFA was able to reminisce about his own artistic days and I was able to learn a bit more about what I like in art and why. At $24, we did not feel cheated. The advertising shown used a Klimt painting that did not mislead the patron about what they would see in the exhibition. We also came away with more from the gift shop, including the program as a keepsake.

So, value for money, Tut v Vienna, there’s my $59 dollars worth. I will be taking a closer look at what the Melbourne Museum advertise in future. Scratch that; I’ll be taking a closer look at what ANY exhibition suggests in advertising in future. Picasso is coming and there’s to be a Renaissance exhibition soon too, but I’ll be looking for the value in my buck’s worth. We had a lovely weekend, with family and in our time alone, but next time the museum will not be my first port of call when I seek artistic pleasures in Melbourne.

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