by the Hungarian artists Andras Galik and Balint Havas, known
together as Little Warsaw, the project took place behind closed
doors at the museum. The artists brought the bronze body from
Budapest to Berlin and, on May 26, under museum supervision,
arranged to have the ancient Nefertiti head placed briefly
on it. The event was taped, and the video and the headless
bronze are now on view in adjacent rooms of the Hungarian
Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The ancient head was returned
to its glass case in Berlin and did not travel.
reached by e-mail, declined to comment.
and Berlin museum officials involved in the project said "The
Body of Nerfertiti" should be understood within the well-established
tradition of dialogue between contemporary art and familiar
works from the past. The bust, dug up in Egypt in 1912 and
taken back to Berlin by German archaeologists, has long been
one of the city's most important cultural attractions.
Wildung, the director of the Egyptian Museum, said he had
given permission for the project and helped arrange its execution
because it shows the continued relevance of the ancient world
to today's art. "The idea was to create a headless statue
that alludes to the Nefertiti but is a distinct and separate
work of art," Mr. Wildung said. "The headless sculpture
in Venice holds the memory of the earlier encounter with the
Egyptian head in Berlin."
Barkoczi, deputy director of the Kunsthalle Budapest and a
curator of "The Body of Nefertiti," said in a telephone
interview that placing the ancient head on a modern body "is
not meant as a parody" - not, he added, like "Duchamp's
mustache on the Mona Lisa."
thing the artists are trying to stress by drawing on this
emblematic ancient work is the continuity of culture,"
Mr. Barkoczi said.
officials, who first learned of the project from German newspaper
articles this month, have interpretedthe work as a cultural
insult. Although the government has not made any motion to
block the showing of the work in Venice, it has aired its
grievanceshere. One Egyptian newspaper ran the headline, "Queen
Nefertiti Naked in the Berlin Museum!" Mr. al-Orabi,
the ambassador, explained:
"It contradicts Egyptian manners and traditions. The
body is almost naked, and Egyptian civilization never displays
a woman naked." Mr. Faruq, the Egyptian culture minister,
called the artwork mad and ill considered. He said the Berlin
museum's acquiescence to the project indicates that the famous
Nefertiti sculpture is "no longer safe in German hands."
Wildung and Mr. Barkoczi expressed surprise at the Egyptian
reaction. "It is strange that the Egyptians are so appalled,"
Mr. Barkoczi said, noting that the bronze sculpture is relatively
abstract. "For us it doesn't mean anything. We have the
tradition since the Greeks of seeing nude figures."
to ANTHRO 193