By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
Let my people go. San Francisco’s famed de Young Museum is doing its best to invite African Americans to the fine art experience.
Fresh off its showing of “The Obama Portraits,” the museum in Golden Gate Park opens an exhibit this week focused on the wonders of ancient Egypt. “Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs” is on view at the de Young museum Aug. 20-Feb. 12.
Heralded as a “once-in-a-lifetime installation,” the exhibit explores the life and accomplishments of one of the world’s most remarkable and celebrated rulers, Ramses II, known today as Ramses the Great.
Bringing more than 180 dazzling objects to San Francisco– many newly discovered and having never left Egypt before – the exhibition features exquisite sculpture, precious treasures, and state-of-the-art multimedia productions that will demonstrate the opulence and power of ancient Egyptian civilization.
“‘Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs’ reveals the power and splendor of ancient Egypt and expands on the history conveyed within our own collection of ancient art,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which runs the de Young.
“Once the exhibition completes its international tour, these objects will return to Egyptian museums and will likely not travel again for decades,” Campbell continued.
Ramses the Great became one of Egypt’s longest-ruling kings in a 67-year reign. His tomb is located in the Valley of the Kings, the final resting place of New Kingdom pharaohs for more than 500 years. This tomb was plundered in ancient times. The exhibit includes objects from royal tombs found elsewhere in Egypt to offer an idea of the extraordinary objects Ramses’ tomb must have included.
“Ramses II is considered to be the greatest king ever to rule Egypt,” said Dr. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. “This exhibition will illuminate the pivotal moments that earned the great pharaoh his place in history, while bringing visitors face-to-face with absolutely stunning Egyptian artifacts.”
It’s the first exhibition about Ramses the Great in more than 30 years and the first presented in San Francisco. The installation includes royal statues, sarcophagi, spectacular masks, magnificent jewelry and ornate golden tomb treasures. All reveal the fabulous wealth of the pharaohs, the astonishing skill of ancient Egyptian tomb builders and the superb workmanship of Egyptian artists.
Modern technology brings history and culture to life in new ways. Drone photography, immersive video settings, multimedia productions and photomurals present the life and accomplishments of Ramses, including his monumental building projects and his triumph at the Battle of Kadesh, which is considered to be the largest chariot battle fought. For an extra fee, visitors can have a virtual experience, “Ramses and Nefertari: Journey to Osiris,” inside the museum’s murals room, which takes them on a tour of two of Ramses’ most impressive monuments, Abu Simbel and Nefertari’s Tomb.
“This is an opportunity to experience ancient Egypt like never before,” described World Heritage Exhibitions President John Norman.
African American art is woven throughout the de Young’s permanent collection, with artists such as Thornton Dial, Aaron Douglas and Claude Clarke given space to shine and inspire conversation about what art is and can be.
The traveling Obama exhibit left Aug. 14 after drawing crowds from across the state, including visitors from Sacramento, who proudly posted photos of themselves “with” the former president and first lady on social media. While there, museumgoers have been awed by the extensive Faith Ringgold exhibit, “American People.” The art and activism of the Harlem-born artist takes center stage and is well worth the drive. “American People” features thought-provoking paintings, quilts and mixed-media sculptures that showcase the depth of Ringgold’s impressive six-decade career. It runs through Nov. 27.
The de Young is located inside Golden Gate Park at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco. The museum is open 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. For more information or tickets, visit deyoungmuseum.org.
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