Who would have expected The Jewish Museum to host an avant-garde fashion show during the Performa festival or invite Lena Dunham to host a Purim party at the Park Avenue Armory? The 109-year-old institution — led by its new director, Claudia Gould — has been shaking things up and increasing its relevance. The shift in exhibitions and programming has been alienating to more than a few longtime members who feel they do not connect with the roster. For its part, the museum is showing that it is trying to reach a greater balance by continuing to offer familiar names such as Chagall, albeit in a new light. It continues to offer mainstay family programs and daytime lectures.
It is also experimenting with offering free tickets to events featuring big-name speakers, such as a panel discussion with artist John Baldessari that took place this spring. While some of the usual lecture attendees were present, many in the crowd traveled uptown for the event, which included small plastic cups of kosher wine. Monthly 7 a.m. coffee klatches with scholars and artists now take place under the aegis of the museum at cafés around the city.
Not only is the art world is listening, it is clear that the museum is evolving into an increasingly shared space where the edgy can cohabit with the traditional. Look for the trend to deepen in 2014.
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