Happiness... there is a word for it in every language, yet, what it is and how best to sustain it is a perennial puzzle. There is hardly a culture, religion or political platform that fails to mention it, while few have defined it in consistently satisfying terms.
Artist Barbara Bloom rummages through The Jewish Museum’s vast collection and teases out new meanings from her playful pairings.
Jewish Week Book Critic
At most museums, the bulk of the collection is not on the walls or in display cases, but carefully catalogued and stored, out of sight. At The Jewish Museum, artist Barbara Bloom was extended a dream invitation: to peruse their collection of 25,000 works of ceremonial and fine art, and to configure an altogether new display.
It’s the 100th anniversary of the legendary 1913 Armory Show, which took place in the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue and is widely credited for bringing Modern art to New York. A slew of shows are planned during 2013 in celebration.
There’s something exquisite about the Offit Gallery on The Jewish Museum’s second floor: It is high-ceilinged with lots of light flooding in from the windows overlooking Central Park. In 2012, the Museum inaugurated a series of “laboratory” exhibitions in the space, once part of the Warburg family mansion. New works as well as pieces from the Museum’s collections are featured, in an effort to advance new ideas about art and culture.
Jewish, Christian and Islamic manuscripts, side by side, at The Jewish Museum.
Jewish Week Book Critic
To see the Rambam’s handwriting up close is astonishing. Two of his handwritten works are behind glass, part of The Jewish Museum’s new exhibit, “Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries.” His autograph draft of his comprehensive legal code, or Mishneh Torah, dates back to around 1180. Its black Hebrew letters are written in a cursive Sephardic script, with many letters joined, as though the philosopher, rabbi, doctor and leading figure in the medieval Jewish world were writing in a hurry, without lifting the pen very often.
This week I wrote my Culture View column on Maira Kalman's new exhibit at The Jewish Museum. I've got a pet obsession with her work, and figured that it would have been near impossible to leave my utterly self-conscious bias behind for the sake of a more "critical" review. So instead, I used it as an occasion to look at the same illustrations of hers I love--with all their winsomeness, humor, wit, vivacity and even occasional sadness--and simply view them in another light.
This week, I wrote about the retirement of The Jewish Museum's director Joan Rosenbaum, who's led the museum for 30 years. But the story of her career raises a few fundamental questions that The Jewish Museum, and indeed all ethnic museums, must grapple with: Should ethnic museums advance the consensus opinions of their constituent group, or should they challenge those beliefs? And if the latter, where do you draw the line?