Display heading to London has had 1.3 million visitors, beating 50-year-old record held by previous Tut show
A vast touring show of treasures linked to Egypt’s boy-king Tutankhamun has attracted more than 1.3 million visitors in Paris, becoming the most-visited exhibition in French history.
The show, based at a vast space at La Villette before it arrives at the Saatchi Gallery in London in November, has beaten France’s previous record of 1.2 million visitors in 1967 for a much smaller Tutankhamun exhibition at the Petit Palais.
The visitor numbers can be explained in part by the exhibition’s run exceeding five months and special extended late-night openings to meet demand. More than 130,000 tickets had been sold before doors opened in March.
But French cultural commentators said the record-breaking turnout also testified to an enduring fascination with the Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb as well as the notion of life after death.
The show features the largest number of Tutankhamum treasures ever to leave Egypt and it will be the last time they can be seen on tour before they are permanently displayed at the vast new Grand Egyptian Museum near the pyramids of Giza.
One key attraction in the exhibition is the guardian statue that guarded the burial chamber. The 150 objects on show include a gold inlaid miniature coffin that contained the king’s liver after it was removed during the mummification process, a gilded wooden bed with carved lion feet, probably made specially for Tutankhamun’s funeral, and a gilded wooden shrine showing intimate scenes of royal domestic harmony.
Thierry Vincenti, the head of IMG France which organised the Paris show, told French radio: “The fact that the Grand Egyptian Museum being built at Giza will host these artefacts at the end of the tour is important. There is a sense of this being the last time people would be able to see these objects on tour.
“We hoped to get 1 million people. To beat that and get this turnout is exceptional,” he said.
The current Tutankhamun exhibition, and the previous 1967 Tutankhamun show are now Paris’s most visited exhibitions. A blockbuster display dedicated to the impressionist painter Claude Monet at the Grand Palais in 2010 attracted about 911,000 visitors.
The Tutankhamun tour, which began in Los Angeles, marks the upcoming centenary of the discovery of the young pharaoh’s tomb, considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time.
The British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the 18th-dynasty monarch in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor in 1922. The tomb was untouched and included about 5,000 artefacts.