Does a major King Tut exhibition violate Egyptian law?
An Egyptian lawyer, Sayed Said, has filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in relation to "Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh," an international blockbuster exhibition of more than 130 artefacts. Having just opened on its London leg of the tour in March, the exhibition was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was meant to run through May 3rd at London's Saatchi Gallery but it has been postponed, along with the rest of the tour, until lockdown restrictions ease. Said argues that the 2017 contract between the Ministry of Antiquities and IMG, the parent company of Exhibitions International who organised the show, many have violated antiquities laws. At the time of the agreement, the law stated that objects could be loaned through an exchange with certain places like "museums, scientific institutions or states," not commercial bodies, given that the objects were not unique. The law was slightly relaxed in 2018 amendment but the contract was signed prior to that change. Said believes the show violates the law because the contract is an agreement with a private company, not a public body. Additionally, the unique nature of the items included is of concern. According to the BBC, who reported on the matter, IMG claimed the artefacts in the exhibition were not unique. Controversial Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who played a large role in the development of the exhibition, is quoted as claiming "these touring artifacts aren't of any importance." However, this directly contradicts a quote from him used to promote the exhibition in which he said "each object is unique." If the lawsuit is successful, it has asked that all of the objects be returned to Egypt, voiding the rest of the tour. If the tour continues, the artefacts will continue to be shown around the world until 2024, when they will return to Egypt to be installed at the Grand Egyptian Museum set to open next year.
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