Art of the Copy

Tutankhamun Copies in Berlin are the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: In Berlin, copies of Tut's treasures stand in well for the real ones.

King Tut's funeral mask, obviously – or not quite that, since it's a reproduction that I saw over the weekend in Berlin in a big Tutankhamun show that included only reproductions, commissioned by the German rock promoters Semmel Concerts. (Semmel had invited me to a conference to give my usual rant against exhibitionitis.) To my huge surprise, I left the Tut spead unconvinced that a show of originals would have been much better, or more informative. The repro show let you get a very close, long look at objects that otherwise you'd have to fly to Cairo to see, in the much less than ideal conditions of the Egyptian Museum. And the show was surprisingly informative, even pedagogic – sometimes verging on the pedantic – without much of the empty splash you'd expect of a for-profit, mass-market touring exhibition. The one near-fatal drawback was, you could say, epistemological: You had to trust the organizers to be giving you faithful copies, whereas when you see original objects, you have the near certainty that the knowledge on offer in them is real.

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