Mummy and mask of Khnumhotep, ca. 1981–1802 B.C. Egyptian, Middle Kingdom Human remains, linen, cartonnage, paint, ebony, obsidian, travertine (Egyptian alabaster), gold, faience; L. 174.7 cm (68 3/4 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.182.131c)

In the center of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recently opened exhibit Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom lies a dead body. Inside a narrow open wooden coffin, a mummy rests on its left side. As we gaze upon the wrapped body and painted mask with recognizable facial features, a feeling of unease descends. Here’s a body exhumed from its grave for our education and pleasure. But is that right?

The body belongs to Khnumhotep, an estate manager (or steward) for the pharaoh, who died about 4,000 years ago. The beauty and intricacy of the coffin and mummy indicate the extent to which the Egyptians prepared for death and made the preparations a central part of their religious and cultural practice. The ancient Egyptians took evident care to preserve the body; perhaps that is the reason it feels so unsettling to witness. Preparing for the afterlife clearly meant a lot to these ancients, which raises an ethical dilemma for museums about balancing the public interest against respect for the deceased.

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“For me, there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats,” said the 61-year-old Pablo Picasso to his 21-year-old mistress in 1943. Despite the age difference, Françoise Gilot, a talented artist in her own right, went on to become the mother of two of Picasso’s three illegitimate children and spent ten years with the difficult genius.

Picasso had numerous lovers, wives and mistresses throughout his long career. Each new love inspired him, and art historians have determined direct correlations between the start of new love affairs and a change in the artist’s style. A new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Picasso Sculpture, gives viewers the opportunity to witness how love galvanized his three-dimensional portraits of women and how these muses catapulted his artwork in continuously new directions.

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America is Hard to See

That’s the title of the current exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The name comes from Robert Frost’s 1951 poem of the same name, originally published in The Atlantic magazine. In the poem, Frost takes Christopher Columbus to task for not recognizing the enormous possibilities of his “discovery.” Instead, Frost considers Columbus a negative role model for future generations of Americans who

 … would have to put our mind

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