Friday Heirloom 99: Exhibition “Tutankhamun, the Treasures of the Pharaoh”, Paris

Friday Heirloom 99: Exhibition “Tutankhamun, the Treasures of the Pharaoh”, Paris

Check out the Highlights of April here

Heritage and money: Friday truth or Friday rant?

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Selfie-attempt at the King Tut show in Paris

Once upon a time, in a beautiful country known as Italy, a girl (whose temperament was too much to bear for the big minds around her) was born.

Nevertheless, as a child, at the age of 5, she would walk around the neighborhood helping the elderly decipher their electricity bills, even though she would not go to kindergarten with the same tenacity and excitement…

Eventually, that child grew into a young woman who began to understand many things about the elderly, their community and their heritage.

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Howard Carter, the British archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s intact tomb in 1922

I grew up in a country where the concepts of heritage, museums and art have little to do with money. In fact, the two in the same sentence make some of my people cringe.

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Some of the best 22 euros I’ve spent in a while…

They are the same people who want to get more money for their relatives’ museum work. They are the same people who would pay a big slice of their hard-earned money for big concerts or a ticket to Disneyland. They are the same people for whom twenty-two euros for a world-renowned exhibition like the one on Tutankhamun in Paris is too much! And, obviously, they are the same people who don’t understand the work behind an exhibition of this caliber…

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A statue of Amon, protector of Tutankhamun

The way we see museums has to change. No longer detached temples of beauty, they need our money. If in the past it was acceptable to think that museums could rely on state and government support – if it ever was that way – things have changed. Public money has shrunk and in about every developed country (I speak for what I know) our heritage needs our support.

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Wooden armchair of Tutankhamun with ebony and ivory inlays

Why should we contribute, you may ask? A politician in Italy has publicly stated that “With culture we don’t eat” (Con la cultura non si mangia), and I hope you know how wrong and misleading and possibly dangerous that statement is.

Not only is art good for our well-being, but visiting museums is also vital for us humans to understand our past and present for a better future! And, economically speaking, museums generate revenues just like some other tourist attractions (if not more than them, like probably in the case of Tutankhamon).

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Inlaid wooden cartouche box

It is therefore not acceptable for people to think that museums today are self-sufficient. We simply cannot do it alone!

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Gilded wooden and ivory pen case inlaid with glass

That’s why I’m very happy to help people understand that the exhibition currently on at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris is worth every euro.

Celebrating the centenary of the discovery of the royal tomb, this show is a unique opportunity to learn about the history of the most famous of the pharaohs, Tutankhamun, before the artefacts are permanently installed within the new Egyptian Grand Museum (which is currently under construction).

How can we not care about this?

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Gilded wooden bed

More than 150 original objects from the pharaoh’s tomb are under our eyes. For some of them, this is the first (and last!) time out of Egypt.

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Gilded wooden fan

And, wow! As you can see from the photos I was able to take, all in a dim light and while trying to avoid the crowds, these are all personal objects of King Tut, things that accompanied them in the two worlds, of life and death.

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Gilded wooden shield with Tutankhamun (first time out of Egypt!)

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(detail of the object above)

So, some of you may be wondering “who was Tutankhamun and why are they famous”? From what is known, Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh ruling during the 18th dynasty (circa 1332–1323 B.C), which is the era in which ancient Egypt achieved the peak of its power.

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Gilded wooden statue of Ptah

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Tutankhamun’s coffin in gold, glass and carnelian stone

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Wooden figure of Tutankhamun on a bier, wooden sarcophagus, wooden Shabti

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Gold wesekh collar

This is a fantastic exhibition, especially if you – like me – have never had a chance to experience it.

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Tutankhamun’s wishing cup in the form of open lotus and two buds

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Quartzite statue of Tutankhamun

I hope you’ll consider going to see it for yourself (remember to book a ticket in advance here!).

The show is on until September 15th, 2019 at La Villette in Paris and it offers extended hours during the months of April and May.

Different family-friendly activities are also available on site, including Egyptian-themed workshops and a even book-signing sessions with the curator of the show!

Have fun, and let me know how it goes.

Friday Heirloom 98: Château de Monte-Cristo (Home of Alexandre Dumas), France

Friday Heirloom 98: Château de Monte-Cristo (Home of Alexandre Dumas), France

Check out the Highlights of April here

What causes do you fight for every day?

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View of the Moorish salon at Château de Monte-Cristo

If it’s true that we live for a reason, what is your purpose?

Through writing and photography, I try to help make museums accessible to more people. Everyone regardless of their age, roots, skin color, sexual and religious orientations (to name a few) should feel welcome in museums. Everyone, with their own stories, background and views of the world. My work is about helping build better museums for a better world, and encouraging people to visit them.

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Château de Monte-Cristo in all its splendour

One way I try to do this is through museum-going. Visiting museums and sites of historical relevance is my favorite way of both learning about the state of the museum field around me and passing that knowledge on to other people.

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A view of Château d’If, Dumas’ writing cabinet

So it always surprises me when I realize that some of the most beautiful French heritage sites are egocentric. What do I mean by that?

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Alexandre Dumas (father) by Yves Le Boursicaud

Last week my friend and I decided to finally visit Alexandre Dumas’ home and gardens in the Yvelines district of Paris.

Some time ago I would be stunned by such opulence and beauty, but here, this time, I had very contradictory feelings…

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Dumas’ sister, Jeanine, by Jacques Émile Blanche

Let me explain. Alexandre Dumas was a French writer who lived in the 19th century. In 1844, at the peak of their fame and after publishing The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo, they decided to build a Château in Port-Marly that could serve as a home as well as a writing cabinet.

That’s how Château de Monte-Cristo and Château d’If came about in 1847, with their gardens à l’anglaise full of ornamental rocks and waterfalls.

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Living room at Monte-Cristo

Château de Monte-Cristo is stunning and reflects the owner’s history, personality and literary inspiration. Knowing Dumas and the way they treated women (standard practices at the time, I have nothing against the writer), I can’t help but notice extravagance and egocentrism…

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One of the ground floor’s windows

Dumas’ personal motto was “I love those who love me”, and you can feel it throughout the property, starting from the photos and busts in their home to the inscription of their monograms, which I saw a few times.

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Family photos and portraits

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A bust of Alexandre Dumas

On the first floor is la crème de la crème: a salon decorated in moorish style, with stucco sculptures and arabesques. They were crafted by Tunisian artisans and some of the pieces were brought to France by Dumas after their travels.

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Views of the beautiful Moorish salon

It is said that Dumas loved to entertain friends at Monte-Cristo. He also entertained  (numerous) female conquests and organised fabulous parties. They had many pets, too, including monkeys and even a vulture.

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Bright rooms and altars at Monte-Cristo

If all this is true for Château de Monte-Cristo, how about Château d’If, the gothic castle that was also built by Dumas? We know it was a place of study, where the writer retreated for hours to be in solitude. Its facades are carved with titles of the books they wrote, and decorated with sculptures of some of their fictional heroes.

Definitely another example of “self-centeredness”…

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A view of Château d’If’s entrance 

The settings are definitely romantic, and life is good… until 1849 when, pursued by his many creditors, Dumas decided to sell the property (he was still allowed to live at Monte-Cristo before he left for exile in Belgium, in 1851).

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Some of the women in Dumas’ life

Monte-Cristo makes me think about some of the relevant questions we, as a society, should ask ourselves, including the ones on whiteness and feminism. Walking through Dumas’ home I felt the weight of the past on my shoulders, wondering what I’d want to be remembered for.

Friday Heirloom 97: Musée de Cluny, Paris

Friday Heirloom 97: Musée de Cluny, Paris

Check out the Highlights of April here

An Italian in her element…

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Angela and the Lady and the Unicorn

Paris, a city with endless gardens and parks, is renowned for its stunning architecture and breath-taking views.

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Detailed view: the entrance of Cluny

As I walk the 6th arrondissement – the heart of Paris – I can admire the Gallo-Roman baths of Cluny which, as I later learned, are among the most ancient monumental remains in Northern Europe.

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Street view: the baths

I then decide to sit down for a cup of coffee at the Croissanterie, and I finally send an email to the Musée de Cluny, aka National Museum of the Middle Ages, to try to learn more about its history. What a beauty!

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Aline, press manager at Cluny, sounds gentle and welcoming. She suggests a meeting at 3pm in the courtyard on a Tuesday afternoon, the week after.

I am there.

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Insider view of Cluny

It’s quiet inside, though sunny. As she arrives, we start the tour of the facilities which include the frigidarium, the Gallo-Roman baths and the temporary exhibition around the Lady and the Unicorn (“Five senses. An Echo to the Lady and the Unicorn)”, with a selection of about fifty treasures from the museum’s permanent collection, including tapestries, sculptures and gold pieces.

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Angela in the baths: first stop of the visit

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The stunning corridors

In Roman times, Cluny’s were the largest public baths in the Gallo-Roman city (with an area of ​​about 6000 m²). Three levels of operation have been identified, including the hydraulic network, some service rooms and a ground floor with frigidarium (cold room), caldaria (warm rooms) and palestra. They were all built between the 1st and 2nd centuries.

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Details of the frigidarium at Cluny

Today there remains only the frigidarium, which quite amazingly gives an idea of ​​the sturdiness of Roman construction. It’s more than 14 meters high and is one of the best preserved in the North of France!

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Beautiful view in one of the corridors at Cluny

The medieval hotel and the courtyard, currently closed, were built in 1485 by Jacques d’Amboise, Abbot of Cluny who belonged to one of most the dominant families of the late 15th century.

The history of the Cluny hotel and the founding of the museum in the 19th century are closely linked to the Du Sommerard family. Alexandre Du Sommerard (1779-1842), a master advisor to the Court of Auditors, put together an extensive collection devoted to the arts of the Middle Ages and moved in 1832 in part of the hotel.

After his death, the State acquired the Hotel de Cluny and its collections (in 1843), with its nearly 1500 objects, while the City of Paris offered the State the Gallo-Roman baths and the lapidary deposit that it contained.

And that’s how “Cluny” as we know it today came about. Covering the history of arts from antiquity to the Renaissance, the museum has nearly 11,000 objects to this day, thanks to its long-term director Edmond Du Sommerard, the son of Alexander, who also acquired the Lady and the Unicorn, its most famous work.

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Underground galleries of the Roman baths

The museum has undergone different changes, having been offered different addictions since 1885.

2016 is the year in which Cluny starts a massive modernization project, which is bound to end in 2020 and which is the reason why the museum is only partially open to the public today.

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The Chess Players (on glass)

In the meantime, to end the visit, we went through the temporary exhibition around the Lady and the Unicorn, a series of six tapestries five of which are meant to evoke the five senses and the sixth may represent “the sense of the heart”.

As you may already know, in the Middle Ages each sense, from touch to sight, has its function, spiritual and material. The senses are used to understand the world and its ties to religion.

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The exhibition: first view

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Details: mirrors and a book (sense: “view”)

So it doesn’t surprise me that the collections of the Musée de Cluny highlight the importance given to the senses in the Middle Ages, with the Lady and the Unicorn itself being an allegory of them.

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Sense: “smell” (incense holders)

The tapestries representing the Lady are the most stunning pieces, in my modest opinion (but I know you all agree with me)! The following photo only represents a part of them…

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The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries

A week after my visit I still can’t believe how magnificent Cluny is. I recommend anyone in Paris to pay a visit to check it out!

Many thanks to Aline for this amazing opportunity.

Friday Heirloom 96: Museum Influencers at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Friday Heirloom 96: Museum Influencers at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Check out the Highlights of April here

Take action and the sun will come.

Le Bal Bullier by Sonia Delaunay

Visiting some Parisian museums can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, considered how popular museum-going is in the city.

Well, as I’m slowly discovering, that is generally true except if you’re a museum influencer!

Strolling around outside the Centre Pompidou

Who are the “museum influencers” and what exactly does it mean to be one?

Well, first of all I believe the museum influencer to be a new profession, one that has been seeing the light of day in the past two or three years. This explains why many museum influencers are reluctant in defining themselves as such, and in reverse that’s also why many museums have a hard time opening their doors to them…

Double Portrait au Verre de Vin by Marc Chagall

But not the Centre Pompidou in Paris, with the beautiful art it displays and its central location.

Social media at the Centre Pompidou is handled in a very progressive way and those who make it have (almost) no secrets! In fact, the museum has created a private Instagram account to reunite all the influencers in the field, trying to shape a community of Pompidou-aficionados who advocate it.

L’Aubade by Pablo Picasso

And that’s exactly how I was able to visit the space on a day when the museum is normally closed, which was this past Tuesday. Chloé, social media specialist at the Centre Pompidou, took me around the galleries and was so kind to take photos of me with my favorite (also well-known) artworks.

As she explained to me, they really want to hear voices that are not always the same old institutional ones. Thus, museum influencers are key in sharing the desired message through different words, and are easily relatable by the people who trust them and follow them.

Gelb-Rot-Blau by Vassily Kandinsky

The first time I saw the Centre Pompidou from the outside I was 16, during my first time in Paris on a school trip. If you’ve seen it you know how cool it looks and if you haven’t, well, guess what?

New York City by Piet Mondrian

I actually entered the Centre Pompidou (also called the National Museum of Modern Art – Musée National d’Art Moderne) for the first time in 2017. As you may have learned on Friday Heirloom 11, modern and contemporary art are at their best here, where the 4th and the 5th floor open you up to a new world of possibilities.

Aménagement de l’Antichambre des Appartements Privés du Palais de l’Élysée pour le Président Georges Pompidou by Yaacov Agam

Oh how I loved my time at the Centre Pompidou! I was able to really enjoy the view of some of the artworks, even if I had a short time, and this time Chloé made it all more fun.

It’s crazy what art can do for your mind and your soul, but the crazier ones are those who don’t believe in that statement. And I wish everyone could experience the feeling of being the only visitor at the museum, behind closed doors!

Exiting through the terrace

For specific questions or comment on the Centre Pompidou, feel free to send me a message and I’ll pass it along to the right people. For generic inquiries, visit the website here.