You’ve read me right: $36.75!
That’s what it will cost you for an online order of one ticket ($32.50 plus the inconvenient “convenience charge”) to see Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, now at its final U.S. stop: the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.
I know this because I instructed my son Paul (who lived for a while in Philly and is going back this weekend to visit friends) that he should try to catch this show. But when we went online to check the price, Paul hit the Great Pyramid of Price Resistance. True, my son would have happily paid twice the price for a professional football game. But in the face of a probably unprecedented tariff for a museum show, I was struck dumb by the Purse of Tutankhamun and my parental persuasive powers failed me.
I am also nonplussed by the use of an image of King Tut’s iconic gold mask (above) in all the publicity material. That mask is not in this show.
The NY Times forewarned us about the sticker shock, in an article two years ago, which detailed the financial arrangements for the show. At its previous stop, the Field Museum in Chicago, on-site tickets (without service charge) were a mere $25.
All this reminded me of a comment made by Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum, at the end of a press lunch on Dec. 8, 2004, when I asked him about why the Met had declined to take the show:
This is an exhibition being circulated by a group of artifacts arrangers, a commercial for-profit group [Anschutz Entertainment Group]. It is an exhibition that is dominated by lucre and the need to make make colossal sums of money for the…circulators and for the Egyptian Department of Antiquities.
As a business plan, in terms of what it would have involved for the Metropolitan Museum to do the show, it would have involved making an exception for reasons that we did not think were cogent enough—a rule that we believe is right of not charging for special exhibitions. We also like to have a certain degree of control and curatorial oversight…and, all the way around, decided that this was not the right thing to do.
I would say the show that has circulated in Europe is gorgeous. There are fabulous objects in it and it is an exhibition that, if it could have been done along certain standards and norms, we would have liked to have been able to do. In its present configuration, we are not doing it and that’s the end of the story.
Should I send Paul to see The Gross Clinic instead?