Egypt vents fury at German museum for using Nefertiti bust in 'pornographic' video

A decision by German Egyptologists to lend a 3,000-year-old bust of the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti for an allegedly "pornographic" exhibit at this year's Venice Biennale has provoked a blistering row between Berlin and Cairo.

The dispute deepened yesterday when Egypt demanded the immediate return of the priceless bust, which has been on show at Berlin's Egyptian museum for almost 90 years. Egypt then declared Dietrich Wildung, the museum's director, persona non grata.

Nefertiti, which means "beauty has arrived", was the wife of the ancient Egyptian ruler Akhenaten, pharaoh in about 1340BC. Her bust, with one eye missing, was discovered by German archaeologists in 1912. A year later it was taken to Berlin, where it has remained one of the city's foremost cultural attractions.

Faruk Husni, Egypt's Minister of Culture, insisted yesterday that the bust was "no longer safe in German hands and must be returned home". He condemned the use of the bust in the Biennale exhibit as "disgusting" and said it was an "insult".

Egypt's anger stems from a decision by Berlin's museum to allow a group of Hungarian artists, called Kish Warsaw, to make a video film of the bust, which shows the head of Nefertiti superimposed on what at first sight appears to be the torso of a naked woman cast in bronze.

To make the video, called Nefertiti's Body, the bust was removed from its glass cabinet for a few hours last month and placed on the bronze torso.

The only people present were Mr Wildung, the two artists and a handful of assistants. "I cannot understand what all the fuss is about," Mr Wildung said. "I personally removed the bust from its case. The whole atmosphere was more like the veneration of Nefertiti than an insult to her. Everyone was awed into silence," he added.

Mr Wildung maintains that the torso on which the bust is superimposed is not naked but covered in a thintransparent robe, which is visible on the original limestone statue. He conceded that in the video no clothing was apparent.

Berlin is unlikely to agree to part with one of its most treasured artefacts. The city authorities argue that an agreement signed between Imperial Germany and Egypt in 1913 gives the bust's German finders the right to keep it for ever.

Mr Wildung has accused the Egyptian side of overreacting. "I receive requests from artists who want to make use of Nefertiti almost monthly. I set the highest standards and I have only allowed it to be used once," he said.

The Venice Biennale begins on Monday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn