Magazine of art press and reviews from London
David Franchi – Monday, 25 April 2016.
It was an intriguing Egyptian exhibition “Beyond Beauty” at Two Temple Place, London.
“Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” focused on the ancient Egyptian predilection to beautify the body, for which Two Temple Place, London, created this exhibition.
A well documented theme, the adorning of the body in ancient Egypt is easy to find in different context, films, books, museums, etc.
However, the Two Temple Place exhibition let us understanding ancient Egyptians at their highest point: it was a culture fascinated by appearance and identity both in life and death.
“Beyond Beauty” proposed a small but fascinating exhibition, with artefacts spanning over four millennia, from 3,500 B.C. to 400 A.D. Many of the artefacts on display came from the same archaeological excavations, and are seen together collectively for the first time since their discovery by pioneering Victorian Egyptologists. Together with these objects, came their interesting stories of how they arrived at their current UK homes, supported by outstanding original archival material.
Created by the Bulldog Trust, “Beyond Beauty” was the result of a group of seven of the UK’s smaller institutions who have coordinated themselves to bring to London their remarkable exhibits: Bagshaw Museum (Kirklees Council), Bexhill Museum, Bolton Museum, Ipswich Museum, Macclesfield Museums, Royal Pavilion & Museums (Brighton & Hove) and Touchstones Rochdale.
The Two Temple Place exhibition showed rare surviving imagery on fine painted coffins, decorated funerary masks, flimsy figurines and skilfully carved reliefs. On display, also, was a significant quantity of jewellery, mirrors, hairpins, scent bottles and makeup. It offered the possibility to look into astonishingly daily routines of private life and the continuous transformation of the ‘fashion’ of the time.
“Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” exhibition invited the public to question why Egyptians
cared so much about transforming the way they looked and how our contemporary opinions are influenced by the objects they left behind.
Beyond Beauty was curated by Egyptologist Dr. Margaret Serpico, with Heba Abd El Gawad, a PhD student in Egyptian Archaeology at Durham University (funded by Helwan University, Cairo) currently researching self-presentation in Ancient Egypt. It has been a long-standing aim of Dr. Serpico to create such an exhibition: “The desire to unveil the fabulous objects held in these museums was borne out of a long term project to raise awareness of some of the 200 ancient Egyptian collections in the UK, many in regional museums. I have always been amazed by the many wonderful artefacts in these collections, objects that I wished could be seen by wider audiences. This exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate these collections and appreciate how important it is that we care for and preserve them into the future.”
Two Temple Place is a magnificent neo-Gothic mansion on London’s Victoria Embankment. It is owned and run by the charity the Bulldog Trust. Its Winter Exhibition Programme aims to support regional museums across the UK, highlighting the great riches that are to be seen through an annual free exhibition.
The exhibition “Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” was at the Two Temple Place, London, from 30th January until 24th April 2016.