You don't go to an exhibition titled Un té con Nefertiti (Tea with Nefertiti) thinking you're going to find something conventional. Even so, it's hard to prepare yourself for bumping into an Egyptian mummy in a Tupperware box. It's an incredible piece: the mummy, life size, is not real but it looks the part and the gigantic plastic container sports a blue lid with characteristics of a Saite Period sarcophagus. It provokes a flood of questions: does it allude to the exploitation of mummies by the media and museums? Or does it imply that Egypt has remained preserved or frozen in its past? Did the builders of the pyramids take any kind of lunchbox to work with them?
Vik Muniz's Tupperware Sarcophagus, Object (Relicario) (2010) is just one of the many surprising and marvelous things to be found at this wonderful exhibition at Valencia's IVAM. In another room you encounter two immense excavation shovels placed in such a way as to compose the hieroglyph for the ka (two arms joined together), a 2009 work by Nida Sinnokrot.
Further on you bump right into Nefertiti herself in the raw in the form of the naked bronze body that duo Little Warsaw controversially created for the bust of the Egyptian queen housed in the Neues Museum in Berlin. Their video installation of the head and its new body almost gave Dr Zahi Hawass, the then chief of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, a heart attack, so angry was he at the lack of respect shown to the work.
In another room you encounter two immense excavation shovels
Another exhibit not to miss is the video work and documentary about moving the colossal statue of Ramses II through the streets of Cairo in 2007. There are no original Ancient Egyptian relics in the exhibition, but their presence is everywhere in the form of images that counterpoint the works on show.
In reality, explains IVAM director Consuelo Císcar, the allusion to Nefertiti is an excuse for a profound reflection on the long reach and the multiple meanings around the processes of artistic creation and, especially, appropriation that the works undergo as they travel through time and space.
The exhibition has already passed through the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha and Paris's Institut du Monde Arabe and, after its stop in Valencia, it will travel to the new Egyptian Art Museum in Munich.
Un té con Nefertiti. Until January 26 at IVAM Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, C/ Guillem de Castro 118, Valencia. www.ivam.es