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Once-in-a-Lifetime Viewing Opportunity within Old Kingdom Tombs at New Gateway to Metropolitan Museum's Egyptian Collection

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today the eagerly awaited reopening of the Old Kingdom tombs of Perneb and Raemkai – which will go on temporary view without the glass panels that will be installed later this spring – for a rare six-week viewing by the public.

The six-week showing of the tombs will highlight the reopening of five completely renovated and reinstalled permanent galleries of Egyptian art – among the most popular exhibition areas in The Lila Acheson Wallace Galleries of Egyptian Art. The newly refurbished and dramatically reinstalled galleries present in a fresh way the earliest and latest works in the Museum's outstanding collection of Egyptian art, the result of a major renovation project that started in 2002.

The reinstallation of the galleries has been made possible by Judith and Russell Carson.

Additional highlights are the uncovering of three windows facing Fifth Avenue, the exposure of original Richard Morris Hunt ceiling beams in two galleries, and the architectural reconfiguration of the Old Kingdom tombs of Perneb (ca. 2380-2350 B.C.) and Raemkai (ca. 2450 B.C.) to more closely resemble their original settings. Of particular interest is the showing, for six weeks only, of the decorated chapels of the two tombs prior to the installation of specially designed glass panels. Visitors wishing to enter the tombs during the special viewing period will be escorted in small groups.

"We are enormously pleased to offer the public a rare and precious gift – the experience of immediacy with works of art that were created some 4,000 years ago – in a dramatically redesigned space that constitutes the new gateway to the Museum's Egyptian art collection," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum. "In this effort, we are particularly grateful to architect Kevin Roche, whose elegant conceptual work led to a new and intimate setting for one of the Museum's most-loved destinations, the Tomb of Perneb, and to the Museum's Chief Designer, Jeff Daly, who utilized the light and openness of these beautiful Richard Morris Hunt architectural spaces to create a fresh and modern installation that will delight visitors."

The Metropolitan Museum's collection of Egyptian art spans more than 4,000 years of ancient art history. Located on the Museum's first floor, the 32 galleries and seven study rooms that constitute The Lila Acheson Wallace Galleries of Egyptian Wing are arranged in a loop that begins and ends near the Great Hall. Thus, the five recently renovated galleries – devoted to the beginning and the end of the Pharaonic tradition – are adjacent to one another at the entrance to the Egyptian galleries.

The earliest works in the Museum's Egyptian collection (Predynastic and Early Dynastic art up to ca. 2650 B.C.) are displayed in the east gallery with windows facing Fifth Avenue, while the rooms along the west side are devoted to the latest works (dating to Imperial Roman times, up to around 400 A.D.). Between them lies a spacious introductory room, in which the impressive architecture of the tomb of Perneb is the most conspicuous feature. In the new installation, two Old Kingdom granite sculptures share the space: the life-size figure of a recently acquired recumbent lion, dating to Dynasty 4 (ca. 2575-2465 B.C.), and a royal stela with the name of the Second Dynasty king Raneb (ca. 2740 B.C.).

The three Egyptian rooms directly adjoining the Great Hall are part of the 1902 building designed by Richard Morris Hunt. In the decade following that original construction, additional galleries were planned and executed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White. The present display of art within the galleries is based on a design by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates that was planned and realized in three stages during the 1970s and early 1980s, and completed in 1983. The new 2002-2004 reinstallation of the galleries closest to the Great Hall – again overseen by Kevin Roche – includes the three Richard Morris Hunt galleries, an additional McKim, Mead and White room on the Roman Egypt side, and part of the Old Kingdom gallery, also by McKim, Mead and White, that adjoins the Predynastic and Early Dynastic space along Fifth Avenue.

The Audio Guide program has been expanded to include new information reflecting the renovation and reinstallation of the galleries.

The Audio Guide program is sponsored by Bloomberg.

The reinstallation is organized by Dorothea Arnold, the Lila Acheson Wallace Curator in Charge of the Department of Egyptian Art; Marsha Hill, curator; and Diana Craig Patch, Assistant Curator. Exhibition design is by Jeffrey L. Daly, the Metropolitan Museum's Chief Designer, and Jeremiah Gallay, Design Assistant. Lighting is by Zack Zanolli, Clint Coller, and Rich Lichte, Lighting Designers. Gallery construction management is by Marlene Lieu, Architectural Project Manager. Conservation work has been carried out by Ann Heywood and Kendra Roth, Associate Conservators, and Leslie Gat, Assistant Conservator, from the Museum's Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation. Installation of art work is by Jeffrey Perhacs, Manager for Installation, and Nancy S. Reynolds and Alexandra Walcott, Assistant Managers for Installation. Carving and installation of stonework is by Dany Roy, monument restorer and sculptor.

The special viewing period for the public will take place from January 29 through March 14. The two tombs will be closed temporarily for the installation of glass panels, and will reopen permanently to the public on May 4.

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