Activities Art Reviews Things to do

A visit to Tutankhamun at the Saatchi Gallery

The ancient Egyptians believed a person dies twice: the first time when their soul departs their body, and the second time when the last person speaks their name. When King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered by Egyptologists nearly a century ago, intact and untouched by raiders and treasure hunters, it started a craze that ensured the “boy king’s” immortality. 

The priceless treasures from King Tutankhamun’s tomb are the greatest, most complete, and best preserved artefacts from ancient Egypt and they reveal much about the lives of the Pharaohs. Tut-mania created the blockbuster exhibition when the objects first began touring the world so it’s only fitting that TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh is drawing record crowds. 

TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh has the most number of artefacts to ever tour the world and it is likely to be the last tour ever.  A permanent home for them is due to open in Cairo in 2021.

The exhibition at the Saatchi consists of an introductory video, several galleries of artefacts, followed by a couple of rooms exploring the history of the discovery and the resulting effect that Tutankhamum had on popular culture. You can see a bit more about ten of the highlighted artefacts on the website here.

(There is no death mask as part of the display; although this artefact toured in the 1970s the Egyptian government decided to keep it in the museum in Cairo to preserve it for future generations). 

The artefacts are pristine they at first glance seem to be replicas. It’s hard to believe that anything could survive three millennia and still look so intact, let alone so fresh and new.  Most of the figures are small and delicate, with very intricate stone inlays that require close up examination. So do take your time and take in all of the detail.

Is Tutankhamum child-friendly? For older children, absolutely! Those with a particular interest in Egyptology will get a thrill from seeing some of the greatest ever discoveries up close and in person. The audio guide and an old-fashioned notebook and pencil for some copying and drawing will add to the experience. There is however less to engage smaller children as there are no interactive elements, but there are a few areas with videos and other sensory aspects which should keep them happy for a moment or two.

If you are visiting with a toddler it’s worth planning ahead and bringing a few of your own discreet distractions, especially if there is an older child or adult in your party who will want to spend time reading the panels and listening to the audio guide. It’s also worth bringing your sling or carrier, as the exhibition is so busy it’s difficult to let toddlers walk on their own, and most of the artefacts are too high for them to see from the ground.

TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh is on at the Saatchi gallery until 3 May 2020. Adult tickets start from £24.50 off peak and £28.50 peak, child tickets from £16.50 and peak £19.50; 3 and under are free. There’s an audio guide (£6) and VR experience (£15.50). The audio guide is interesting but not absolutely necessary and the VR experience is a fun novelty experience but probably not worth the additional cost or waiting time unless you are a real enthusiast. The recommended age for the VR experience is 10+ but younger children can take part at their parents’ discretion. 

No buggies are allowed in the exhibition but you can park them outside the cloakroom (it’s worth keeping this in mind if you are planning your visit around a baby’s nap as you will want to have them in your sling or carrier). No food or drink allowed in the gallery but there is a café if you need a refreshments stop.

There is step-free access into the gallery itself and lift access to all the different floors. The exhibition can get very crowded so we recommend booking tickets as early as possible especially if visiting with young children. You will have to queue for security screening but this may be shorter if you are using the step-free access. 

The nearest tube station is Sloane Square, which has an escalator to the platform. Victoria is also a short walk away for step-free access. In addition to the gallery café there are plenty of food options on King’s Road and an open-air “fine food market” in Duke of York Square on Saturdays.

Words and photography by Rachel Richardson from londonandleap.com

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