The Arty Semite

Best Bric-a-Brac Culture Can Buy

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Izhar Patkin, Salonière, 1998/Jewish Museum

Over winter break, I didn’t want for activity. There were people to see, films to screen and a wealth of exhibitions to behold, one of the most inventive of which was a modest but arresting show at the Jewish Museum, on until February 3, called “Collection Tableaux.” Taking the form of four distinctive mediations — in paint, paper, glass and fabric — on the role of the table in Jewish life, the exhibition highlighted the connections between the material and the cultural dimensions of the Jewish experience.

I relished each of the artworks but, as a practicing historian, I took particular delight in Izhar Patkin’s “Salonnière,” a large scale, stenciled and framed collage of a fussy end table crowded with the kind of stuff one was likely to encounter in the determinedly bourgeois setting of a 19th-century German Jewish home: books, bric-a-brac, a tea cup and other appurtenances of the cultured.

A closer look, however, disclosed that what was on display was studded with actual historical references. As the artist would have it, the table belonged to Dorothea von Schlegel, Moses Mendelssohn’s daughter, who not only changed her name but her station in life by becoming a saloniste of the highest order. On its surface rested a couple of books, one of which, “Florentin,” she had penned. Slightly off-center, upsetting the balance, the elegant proportion, of things, was a rather unappealing and hulking porcelain figure of a monkey.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Jewish Museum, Yiddish Book Center, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Tent, Salonnière, From Under the Fig Tree, Izhar Patkin, Exhibits, Collection Tableaux

Censorship at The Jewish Museum?

By Tom Freudenheim

As someone who has spent a lifetime working in museums, I’ve long been sensitive to the decisions made in the process of selecting or omitting works for display. According to a recent article on Tablet Magazine, and another in The New York Times, The Jewish Museum in New York made the decision to remove “Stelen (Columns), 2007-2011,” a photographic installation by artist Marc Adelman, consisting of 50 profile pictures from a gay dating site that show men posing against Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

From ‘Stelen’ by Marc Adelman.

The Jewish Museum’s decision to remove Adelman’s work from the exhibit, titled “Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex,” suggests that the issue of censorship in museums has arisen once again. But casually tossing around that accusation every time a museum conflict arises is to do an injustice to the serious nature of real censorship.

Patrons (that is, funders) have often jerked around the creative people hired for their talents. That may be exasperating, but it doesn’t automatically constitute censorship. Nor does a museum’s decision not to display something. Rather, The Jewish Museum’s decision is about a much more troubling issue that doesn’t get much attention: the unauthorized use of images of people in a wide array of photography exhibitions.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tom Freudenheim, The Jewish Museum, Stelen, Marc Adelman, Exhibits, Composed

Challenging Aesthetics at The Jewish Museum

By Rebecca Schischa

Rona Yefman, ‘Martha Bouke and Andy’s Flowers, Visit at the Museum.’ Courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery, New York.

Subverted representations of the Holocaust, the Israeli army, and gender roles characterize a new photography exhibit at The Jewish Museum in New York.

“Composed: Identity, Politics, Sex,” showing until June 30, incorporates works by seven artists from Israel, the United States and elsewhere, and challenges viewers’ perceptions by confronting pillars of Jewish identity.

The first work we see in the exhibit, “Martha Bouke and Andy’s Flowers, Visit at the Museum” (2011), by Israeli artist Rona Yefman, sets the scene with its transgressive tone. Here, Yefman portrays Martha Bouke, the female persona adopted by an 80-year-old male Holocaust survivor, posing in front of an iconic Andy Warhol painting. The striking, sexualized figure of the masked, bewigged Bouke, dressed in a pretty dress, bright red tights and matching red lipstick, radically plays with viewers’ expectations of an octogenarian great-grandfather and Holocaust survivor.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rona Yefman, The Jewish Museum, Rebecca Schischa, Marc Adelman, Jorge Zontal, Exhibits, AA Bronson

Hanukkah, Festival of Black Lights

By Margaret Eby

Courtesy of Cheryl

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined Hanukkah with an electroclash dance party? The Brooklyn art collective CHERYL have, and this year, they’re holding their own version of the festival of lights complete with fake blood, glitter, and, of course, jelly doughnuts. Their part-disco part-performance art project, “CHERYL does CHANUKAH,” will be held at The Jewish Museum tonight, bringing footloose costumed mayhem to New York’s Upper East Side.

At first glance, CHERYL seems like an odd match for a solemn Museum Mile institution. The four member group, comprised of Nick Schiairizzi, Stina Puotinen, Destiny Pierce, and Sarah Van Buren, is best known for their Lady Gaga-level costumes and antic, raging bacchanals, usually held in galleries and warehouses tucked deep in the wilds of North Brooklyn. Their appearance at The Jewish Museum is part of an ongoing series of after hours events called The Wind-Up, aimed at bringing the museum’s collection to a wider, more diverse audience.

“We thought it would be a great way to put a Jewish spin on what CHERYL does already,” explained The Jewish Museum’s Director of Education Nelly Benedek. “They’re fun, they’re unpredictable, and they bring in a younger crowd to the museum.”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Jewish Museum, Margaret Eby, Hanukkah, CHERYL

Slideshow: Maurice Sendak’s Hanukkah Lamps

By Ezra Glinter

Courtesy of The Jewish Museum

Maurice Sendak is best known as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, most famously, “Where the Wild Things Are,” and more recently, “Bumble-Ardy,” published this year. Sendak, who was born to Polish Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn and lost much of his family in the Holocaust, also illustrated Isaac Bashevis Singer’s children’s story “Zlateh the Goat,” which received the Newbery Award, and “In Grandpa’s House,” written by his father, Philip Sendak. Needless to say, his Jewish roots run deep.

Now, Sendak has giving those feelings a different kind of expression by curating The Jewish Museum’s annual exhibit of Hanukkah Lamps, or Hanukkiot, selected from the museum’s extensive collection. Many of Sendak’s choices originate in Eastern Europe and recall the family that he lost there during the Holocaust. “I stayed away from everything elaborate. I kept looking for very plain, square ones, very severe looking,” he said. “Their very simplicity reminded me of the Holocaust. And I thought it was inappropriate for me to be thinking of elaboration.” The exhibit, on view until January 29, also includes original drawings from Sendak’s collaboration with Singer and with his father.

View a slideshow of Hanukkah lamps selected by Maurice Sendak:

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Jewish Museum, Maurice Sendak, Hanukkah, Exhibits

Monday Music: Do You Know Where the Party's At?

By Eileen Reynolds

Purgar Peter

It would not be hard to make a party game of picking out the global influences in the New York-based band Hazmat Modine’s new album, “Cicada.” There’s a Latin groove here; a klezmer-ish flourish there; a hint of Jamaican rocksteady; an intermittent country twang; whole tracks featuring a West African brass band. Music by lesser groups would seem to demand an academic treatment, entreating us to catalogue — and to congratulate the musicians for — each eclectic scrap and esoteric musical reference.

The difference between those bands and this one is that Hazmat Modine’s music really works. This is potent stuff that, rather than stirring that old impulse to dissect and label, produces a tickly feeling behind the solar plexus. The thought isn’t “What is this?” let alone, “Is that balalaika that I hear?” Rather, it’s “Where’s the party?”

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wade Schuman, The Jewish Museum, Reut Regev, Music, Joe Daley, Hazmat Modine, Gangbé Brass Band, Eileen Reynolds, Cicada

A Marriage Made at the Museum

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Courtesy of the Jewish Theological Seminary

Now that June is upon us, it’s high season for weddings — and reason enough for The Jewish Museum in New York to mount an exhibition of ketubot, Jewish marriage contracts.

“The Art of Matrimony” showcases 30 different versions of the age-old document. Some hail from the Cairo genizah of the 12th century, others from the atelier of a contemporary artist. Some bear flowers, others fish and still others a sturdy handshake. For all their differences, each ketubah reflects a union of heart and head.

Elsewhere within the museum world, the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia has gone a step further in its commitment to the ketubah by operating a Ketubah Gallery where happy couples can have this “monumental milestone marker,” as one museum official would have it, made to order. And if that weren’t enough to highlight the central role that the Jewish marriage contract plays, both contemporaneously as well as historically, the most current issue of Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture features a fascinating article by Jeffrey Shandler on the multiple and varied meanings the ketubah has accrued over time and space: at once a legal document and a work of art, a token of steadfastness and an emblem of idiosyncrasy.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Jewish Museum, Ketubah, Jenna Weissman Joselit, Jeffrey Shandler, From Under the Fig Tree, Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture

Magic as a Jewish Family Business

By Gordon Haber

The Great Ramses Egyptian Temple of the Mysteries, 1909–1910. David Allen and Sons, Ltd., London, 1909–1910. Collection of Mike Caveney’s Egyptian Hall Museum.

Perhaps it’s time to stop being surprised by the disproportionate number of successful Jews in any random profession. That’s one of the lessons to take from “Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age,” an entertaining exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles on view until September 4.

The exhibit runs concurrently with the Skirball Center’s showing of “Houdini: Art and Magic,” which was at The Jewish Museum in New York earlier this year. “Masters of Illusion” is intended as a complement to “Houdini,” a way of providing some context to the career of the most famous magician ever, Jewish or otherwise.

“The Golden Age” of the title refers to the time between 1875, when magic as live performance bloomed in America and Europe, and the advent of television in 1948. But the exhibit actually begins earlier, with the inclusion of an edition of Reginald Scot’s “The Discoverie of Witchcraft,” first published in the 16th century. Scot’s book argued that his witch-hunting contemporaries were mistaking prestidigitation for witchcraft. To that end, he wrote about a number of tricks that magicians use to this day.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Jewish Museum, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, Skirball Center, Masters of Illusion, Reginald Scot, Magic, Los Angeles, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, Houdini, Horace Goldin, Gordon Haber, Exhibits, Ehrich Weiss, Charles Carter, Carter the Great, Antonio Diavalo

Picasso and the Cone Sisters

By Julie Reiss

Pablo Picasso, ‘Woman With Bangs,’ 1902. Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Claribel and Etta Cone were born in Baltimore in 1864 and 1870, respectively. Two daughters from a large family of German Jewish immigrants, they were in many ways ahead of their time. Claribel Cone went to medical school and later became a professor at Johns Hopkins University. Neither sister ever married, and together they traveled, met artists and writers, and formed an important collection of modern art, which Etta Cone ultimately bequeathed to the Baltimore Museum of Art. A portion of this collection, along with archival material, is currently on view at The Jewish Museum in New York.

The Cone collection is most renowned for its Matisse holdings, but, as I will explain in a May 16 lecture at the museum, the two sisters were avid collectors of Picasso’s work as well. While the Picasso holdings currently on view at The Jewish Museum are modest, they rekindle interest in the points of intersection between these collectors and the artist.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Julie Reiss, John Richardson, Gertrude Stein, Exhibits, Etta Cone, Ellen Hirschland, Cone Sisters, Claribel Cone, Circus Medrano, Baltimore, Lectures, Leo Stein, The Jewish Museum




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.