Review: Beyond Beauty Exhibition

Over the weekend I was happy to go to the new exhibition at Two Temple Place- it’s that building on the north embankment, near the Strand, that looks like a miniature palace. I’ve always wondered what the building actually is, and I was finally able to find out! The building is only open for a short time each year- during their annual exhibition, and during special days like Open Doors London. I missed when it was open for Doors Open, as the queue was massive, and must have missed last year’s exhibition as well. The building wasn’t the only appealing thing for my visit, but the exhibit too- egyptology!

Two Temple Place is the Victorian neo-gothic mansion built for William Waldorf Astor, possibly the richest man in the world at the time, finished in 1895. It’s a beautiful building, with ornate carvings and amazing marble floors. I’ll be on the look out for any tours specifically of the house as one drawback to the exhibition was that the low light levels and display cases meant you couldn’t always see the stunning details.

The exhibition- Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt- left a little to be desired. The exhibition contains some truly fantastic artifacts, and because the exhibition is smaller than what you’d find at the larger museums, you pay more attention to what is there. There seemed to be some unique pieces in styles I hadn’t seen before, as well as some aritfacts that were used to talk about art forgeries and fakes. We were all also given an exhibition guide to take around with us for more information if we wanted it. Unfortunately, there was something to be desired with overall exhibition layout and signage which detracted from the exhibit a bit. The layout in the first room didn’t seem to make too much sense, although we later figured out that we had likely gone through the cases in the wrong order- but there was not too much to suggest what order to view them in. This didn’t seem to matter too much though, it just made some of the overall themes a bit hard to connect. The larger issue was signage. It was often in places that were very low, out of the way, in a shadow, and just generally hard to read. Throughout I often saw visitors lean over awkwardly or crouch down in order to read the labels (several of which were also quite wordy). Possibly worse was how artifacts within the case were numbered, which made it hard to match up to the label. While the label was, for example on the left hand side of the case and numbered 1-16, the artifact described as 1 may be located anywhere throughout the case, beside 13, or 9, or 4… It just made it a bit frustrating or confusing in some cases as you had to pay attention and match up the numbers. Overall, the exhibition is worth popping by to see some interesting artifacts, as well as to view the house itself (particularly as admission is free!)

Bonus (maybe): There seemed to be a themed children’s tour/map guide for families, that also came with a card to decipher some of the hieroglyphs. On the other hand, the two children that had this with them quickly seemed to abandon the trail.




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