Play Pharaoh

This weekend, Newcastle will be treated to the first stop of British Museum’s touring exhibition Pharaoh: King of Egypt, a hugely ambitious show that will see the Great North Museum, Hancock, host the largest UK loan of Egyptian artefacts ever undertaken by the British Museum.

Gold plaque showing the Pharaoh Amenemhat IV offering to the god Atum, 1786 – 1777 BC

Source: The Trustees of the British Museum

Gold plaque showing the Pharaoh Amenemhat IV offering to the god Atum, 1786 – 1777 BC

The Hancock’s own in-house design team have had only five months to complete the challenging space, bringing some 130 incredible pieces to life in their new home.

Paul Bewley is one of two exhibition designers for the museum. ‘From a design point of view, all you’re given when you’re setting up the show is an object list as a starting point,’ he says.

‘The statue of Rameses, for instance – out of its context in  packing crates, it’s a five or six foot lump of very nicely carved granite – in that context it’s very ordinary. But when it’s on a plinth, when you get the lighting correct, it really brings it to life.’

Ramses III offering to the gods of Heliopolis. Papyrus Harris I, 1184-1053 BC.
Ramses III offering to the gods of Heliopolis. Papyrus Harris I, 1184-1053 BC.

The space will be transformed into an ancient Egyptian realm, featuring a large archway at one end and a temple recreation at the other.

‘It’s the right feel – there’s a sloped pyramid-esque sculpture with a huge panoramic background,’ explains Bewley.

‘We used a photograph of modern Egypt and photoshopped it to make it look old, projecting onto the banner an animated skyline so that some of the features move subtly.’

He explains that the banner is packed with symbolism pertaining to Egyptian beliefs and traditions. There will be an animation of the Khepri god – a dung beetle figure whose actions of carrying spherical balls of dung were believed in ancient Egyptian mythology to represent the forces which move the sun.

 

Granite statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II, Egypt. C1200 BC.

Source: The Trustees of the British Museum

Granite statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II, Egypt. C1200 BC.

Pharoah: King of Egypt, A British Museum Tour, runs from 16 July – 25 September at the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle Barras Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne And Wear NE2

 

Following Great North Museum: Hancock, the exhibition can be seen at:
Dorset County Museum, Dorchester; Leeds City Museum; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
 

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