Two Museums in Jerusalem


In my estimation a museum is successful if it has a defined mission, presenting interesting and thought provoking special exhibitions, and has a good permanent collection following this mission with a variety of works, more than a “one each” of the latest and greatest.  Jerusalem has two such museums though very different in focus.  The Israel Museum is a very well respected museum and has a very large collection that spans the ancient art of Israel and the Jewish diaspora, as well as a fine collection of art of the 20th and 21st centuries.  There is always something new and inspiring to see.  In addition to a James Turrell exhibit (an artist who is a master of using actual light, illusion, and color), the two exhibits we explored were “The Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe” and “Face to Face: the Oldest Masks in the World.”

The masks are incredibly well preserved and are about 9000 years old.  They have been dated based on other materials found in the area where they were excavated.

The second museum we visited has a unique focus.  It’s called Museum on the Seam: A socio-political contemporary art museum.  It’s housed in a former army outpost on the former border (seam) between Israel and Jordan.  It was built in 1932 by the Barmki family and stands near the Mandelbaum Gate, the only entry into what was until 1967 the divided city of Jerusalem.  The museum was founded by Raphie Etgar, whose goal was (and is) to show art that addresses human rights and civic engagement.  The show we saw was “And the Trees Went Forth to Seek a Queen”: our relationship to leaders both public officials and charismatic religious and social leaders.

As we were leaving the museum, we met the director/curator Raphie Etgar who gave us the sad news that the benefactor (a German non-Jewish family) who has been the sole support of this museum has decided to no longer fund it.  He had just received this news himself and we could tell he was still in shock.  It looks like the museum will have to close at the end of this year.  Very sad, especially at such a difficult time in peacemaking in this part of the world. The last image in the blog is a photo of us in his office talking about this sad situation and how they might continue their valuable work.  We discovered that this museum is responsible for the “Coexist” exhibit that traveled the world and you are likely to have seen the bumper stickers even in our small town of Mendocino.  Check out the museum’s website to learn more.

These dresses are from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq from the 19th-20th centuries.  They look so much like the traditional Muslim shadow.
These dresses are from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq from the 19th-20th centuries. They look so much like the traditional Muslim shadow.
Much of this exhibit focused on modesty in dress, a common theme in Muslim and Jewish traditions.
Much of this exhibit focused on modesty in dress, a common theme in Muslim and Jewish traditions.
The central platform of the exhibit included dresses for women and robes for men from throughout the world worn in Jewish communities.
The central platform of the exhibit included dresses for women and robes for men from throughout the world worn in Jewish communities.
Detail of dress and robe from Morocco, early 20th century
Detail of dress and robe from Morocco, early 20th century
It's amusing to think these 19th century dresses from France were considered the height of modesty with such emphasis on the bust.
It’s amusing to think these 19th century dresses from France were considered the height of modesty with such emphasis on the bust.
Early 20th century Georgian (the country not the state) man's robe.
Early 20th century Georgian (the country not the state) man’s robe.
Detail shows silver niello (remember this from our studies of the Aegean and early Greece) and gunpowder cases.
Detail shows silver niello (remember this from our studies of the Aegean and early Greece) and gunpowder cases.
Wedding attire from Turkey, Iraq, and Uzbekistan, 19th century
Wedding attire from Turkey, Iraq, and Uzbekistan, 19th century
Children's clothing including outfits for special rituals such as circumcision
Children’s clothing including outfits for special rituals such as circumcision
A Tallit (prayer shawl) from Western Europe, 18th century
A Tallit (prayer shawl) from Western Europe, 18th century
Found in the Judean Hills, mouth appears to be smiling but the forehead is furrowed.
Found in the Judean Hills, mouth appears to be smiling but the forehead is furrowed.
This one seems to have a worried expression
This one seems to have a worried expression
Does it seem like this mask is staring back at you?
Does it seem like this mask is staring back at you? This one is made from chalk
This one is limestone, particularly liked the teeth.
These are all limestone masks, particularly liked the teeth.
One way to tell if mask was used for ceremonial purposes to to look at the back to see if there are wear marks and to see if the facial features line up.  This exhibit allowed the viewer to see both sides.
One way to tell if mask was used for ceremonial purposes to to look at the back to see if there are wear marks and to see if the facial features line up. This exhibit allowed the viewer to see both sides.
Made from chalk, meant to be placed on a ceremony pillar.
Made from chalk, meant to be placed on a ceremony pillar.
This limestone, asphalt, and pigmented mask was found in the world's oldest cultic hoard along with parts of statues, textiles, beads
This limestone, asphalt, and pigmented mask was found in the world’s oldest cultic hoard along with parts of statues, textiles, beads
This encapsulates what the show was about.
This encapsulates what the show was about.
Iranian artist living in Dubai because his own government threatens him.
Iranian artist living in Dubai because his own government threatens him.
Artist appears as figure in a chador, 2010-2011
Artist appears as figure in a chador, 2010-2011
These artists have been active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1970s-80s.
These artists have been active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1970s-80s.
There were a number of video works in the show and this one had the soundtrack for the song.  It is portraits of Kim Jung Il and his son Kim Jung Un of North Korea.
There were a number of video works in the show and this one had the soundtrack for the song. It is portraits of Kim Jung Il and his son Kim Jung Un of North Korea.
Those familiar with his work will recognize the changes in the video as I have included two images.
Those familiar with his work will recognize the changes in the video as I have included two images.
second image
second image
Billy clubs arranged in a Jewish star.  You might call this a work taking off from Duchamp's readymades.
Billy clubs arranged in a Jewish star. They also look like crosses. You might call this a work taking off from Duchamp’s readymades.
This was an interesting "play" on a controversial tower that GasProm the equivalent of Chevron was planning for St. Petersburg that would tower over one of the most beautiful old cities in Russia.
This was an interesting “play” on a controversial tower that GasProm the equivalent of Chevron was planning for St. Petersburg that would tower over one of the most beautiful old cities in Russia.

SongshpielSongshpielThe artist-Contemporary artnational tradition

Sorry about the crooked image, based on the Hyacinthe Rigaud portrait of Louis XIV but with a bag over his head!
Sorry about the crooked image, based on the Hyacinthe Rigaud portrait of Louis XIV but with a bag over his head!
Stairs leading up and down all floors of the museum
Stairs leading up and down all floors of the museum
With ladders
With ladders

IMG_2510

Three portraits in pastel of Meir Kahane, the controversial leader of something he called the Jewish Defense League that was racist and advocated violence against non-Jews.  He was assassinated in New York.
Three portraits in pastel of Meir Kahane, the controversial leader of something he called the Jewish Defense League that was racist and advocated violence against non-Jews. He was assassinated in New York.

Portrait of Evil 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some revile Begin and others praise his accomplishments, probably the most memorable of which was the agreement he worked out with Anwar Sadat of Egypt for which they both received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some revile Begin and others praise his accomplishments, probably the most memorable of which was the agreement he worked out with Anwar Sadat of Egypt for which they both received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Reminder of what this museum building was before.
Reminder of what this museum building was before.
Just down the street (this is Highway One) is the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.  Truly "on the seam" right now.
Just down the street (this is Highway One) is the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Truly “on the seam” right now.

Meeting with Raphie Etgar

 

2 thoughts on “Two Museums in Jerusalem

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