Serenity and chaos, Egyptian Wing and EgyptPosted: January 30, 2011
I adore the Temple of Dendur at The Met. Maybe it is the clash of the exterior gridded windows with the temple’s rough, mottled stone or maybe just my New Yorker’s appreciation of vast indoor space, but I feel serene as soon as I set foot in the Sackler Wing.
The temple was purchased from Egypt in the 1960’s when the construction of the Aswan High Dam threatened to submerge it forever. After a national bidding process, the temple was awarded to The Met and reconstructed in the light-filled gridded addition designed by Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, and Associates.
I visited the temple on Saturday but my serenity was soon poisoned when I learned that vandals and looters were taking advantage of the chaos and rioting throughout Egypt to targeted museums and historic sites. Standing in The Met’s Egyptian Wing, in the midst of mummies, hieroglyphs, and beautiful gold-leafed sarcophagi, I experienced a powerful visceral disgust for the individuals that willfully tore the hands off of mummies, shattered vitrines, and dashed a statue of King Tutankhamun to the ground.
The Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, Dr. Zahi Hawass, was able to fax his account of the events to friends in Europe who then posted it to his blog. Read it!
It is difficult for me to imagine anyone so angry with their government that they would attempt to destroy the most invaluable artifacts of their own culture. I suppose that issues from the privileges of living in a stable nation and being brought up to revere historical objects. One man’s trash is another man’s priceless antiquity.