King Tut returns, but at a price too high for the New York Met

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The Independent US

King Tut is coming back to America. But this time he will cost - so much indeed that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, doyen of US museums which hosted the first Treasures of Tutankhamun show in 1978, is having nothing to do with the follow-up.

King Tut is coming back to America. But this time he will cost - so much indeed that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, doyen of US museums which hosted the first Treasures of Tutankhamun show in 1978, is having nothing to do with the follow-up.

The new show about the boy ruler who died, possibly at the hand of a murderer, in 1323bc, is entitled Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. It will open in Los Angeles in June before moving on to Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The 1978 show marked the start of the era of blockbuster exhibitions which continues today. But although 1.2 million visitors flocked to the Met in what was a cultural phenomenon of the age, neither the museum nor the Egyptian government made a profit, as the Met stuck to a policy of not charging extra for special exhibits.

The land of the pharaohs is taking no such chances in 2004. Egypt wants $10m (£5.2m) profit from every city where the exhibition shows, so organisation of the visit has been handed over to the Anshutz Entertainment Group, which runs sports arenas and other for-profit businesses. As a result, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be charging $30 a ticket, compared to its usual $9. The Met would have had to raise its "suggested" admission to at least $25 from the current $12. It refused to do so.

Organisers claim even these prices are good value, especially if compared to concerts and sports events against which they say the show should be measured. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist, claimed it was better value than two books on ancient Egypt - "and they cost $24 each," he told The New York Times.

In all, 131 items will be on display, including 50 from the 14th-century BC when Tutankhamun was pharaoh, compared to barely 40 in 1978.

The Met is not the only one to have said thanks but no thanks. Museums in Boston and Philadelphia turned King Tut down, as did the Guggenheim in Manhattan. But the show may appear at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which has a notable Egyptian collection.

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