Some of us in the media knew this was coming, but we’d been keeping it a secret until this week, when a fanfare-filled press conference officially let the Incan can out of the bag: The Boca Raton Museum of Art will mark the first stop on the nationwide tour of the blockbuster exhibition “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru.”
When it opens Oct. 16, the exhibition will feature 192 priceless Peruvian artifacts never before presented on tour, including what is being marketed as “the most impressive Andean gold collection ever to travel the world.” Moreover, World Heritage Exhibitions (WHE), which is producing and designing the exhibition, promises a multisensory visitor experience. Its cutting-edge technology will allow museum guests to “see, hear and smell” the ancient region, from virtual-reality vantage points among the clouds atop the Andes Mountains to the terra firma of the Amazon rainforest—all to, in the words of WHE President Anthony Tann, “push the limits of what is possible.”
Tann was among the bevy of speakers, from Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer to Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Tuesday morning, addressing aspects from the exhibit’s anticipated economic impact—hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to attend—to the rich history and exotic flora and fauna of Peru.
Prior to press conference, Kuyayky, a five-piece Peruvian band donning traditional and colorful Andean attire, performed impassioned and soulful songs from their homeland on flute, drums and a variety of stringed instruments. Vibrant painted llamas, created by Peruvian artist Roberto Carlos Olivia Hernandez, watched the musicians alongside the dignitaries and media representatives. Ceramicist Polo Ramirez, using only his hands, feet and a single paddle, molded clay into ornate vessels, the aroma of his materials and percussive whacks of his tool forming a kind of cultural harmony with the nearby music.
Such immersive experiences suggest what visitors may have in store when “Machu Picchu” opens in the fall. If the speakers’ effusive predictions are correct, it will be a watershed event for South Florida, which contains the highest concentration of Peruvians in the nation. Jody Harrison Grass, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, referred to the exhibition as “a signature milestone for the cultural life of Boca Raton, Palm Beach County and the state of Florida.” Irvin Lippman, president of the museum, called it the “most ambitious project ever undertaken inside our walls.” They spoke in front of projected images of Machu Picchu, in all of its mystical, verdant, breathtaking glory.
Tuesday’s announcement was, at least in part, a ravishingly effective tourism conference; walking to my car, I wanted to book a plane ticket to Peru immediately. Visiting the Boca Raton Museum of Art in October may very well be the next best thing.
Presale tickets for “Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru” are available for sign-up; visit bocamuseum.org/golden.