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King Tut’s chair in a fashion line ad triggers uproar

Hawass, minister of Egyptian antiquities, is on the defence again, this time denying using ancient artifacts as props in a photo shoot to promote a clothing line bearing his name

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 18 Apr 2011
one of the photos used in the promotion
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These days Egyptian and international media are filled with the news on the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass. This time he is accused of abusing his position to use the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square and its ancient collection to promote an American clothing line marketed under Hawass’ name.

Several newspapers and magazines claimed that the model of the clothing line used the Tutankhamun’s chair and bench in the photo shoot, which is a major no-no. The idea of using the already delicate ancient artefacts as a prop creates an uproar in the professional archaeology community, as the artefacts are so precious they are transported and kept under strict environmental conditions.

However, the photographer states there was no mishandling and Hawass announced in a press release to Ahram Online and other media that the accusations are unfounded and based on false information.  

Hawass asserts that the promotion campaign photo shoot adhered to all safety measure requirements and was shot on 7 October, 2010 in New York at the King Tutankhamun exhibition, and not the Egyptian museum as it was claimed. Furthermore, he states that nothing of the authentic collection has been used in shooting except for some genuine pieces in the background while the man-handled ones were replicas.

On his part, James Weber, the American photographer who took the photos confirms in his interview with Danny Ramadan on the Art in Revolution blog that none of the authentic objects were touched in the shoot and the chair and the bench used were replicas. “We never would have sat a model down in a 3000 year-old artefact,” Weber asserts in the blog, adding that all the artefacts, such as the chairs in question were protected under glass.

Weber pointed out that some of the images were doctored, for instance, he superimposed two pictures in one with computer tricks: one of a hieroglyphic wall and, separately, posed the model as if she were resting her foot on it. He also mentioned that Hawass did not attend the shooting, which was in New York.

Weber said that his staff abided by the security precaution of the exhibition and conversely, if he had broken the rules, or if the protective glass was jarred or moved in any way or even if the temperature changed it would trigger the alarm system and the police.

Hawass stated that Tutankhamun’s chair is one of the unique objects prohibited from travelling abroad in any exhibition. Hawass added that he and the clothing manufacturer agreed to send the profit to the Children Cancer Hospital in Cairo and that he had sent a letter to Dr Sherif Abul Naga, the hospital’s director to this effect.

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