This new section in Images called “Museum Musings” encourages curators to reflect on their own exhibitions. They are asked to write about their professional perspectives and their curatorial experiences. A theme that emerges in each essay is the curator’s thoughts about the overlapping of secular spaces of the museums with traditions of Judaism and Jewish art. Some of these ideas might have come up when they were planning their exhibits. Others developed when visitor’s own Jewish traditions and Jewish art rubbed up against the content of the exhibition.
Three curators are featured in this issue. The first essay was written by David Sperber, who, with Dvora Liss, curated an exhibit entitled New York/New Work: Contemporary Jewish Art from NYC, which was one of several exhibits at the 2015 Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art. Sperber views the Jerusalem Biennale and his particular exhibit within it as devices for developing the field of Jewish art in Israel. He contends that it challenged the accepted dichotomy between art and religion—and between Jewish and Israeli art, which is currently seen as alienated from tradition and from Jewish art created outside Israel.
The second retrospective is by Esther-Muchawsky-Schnapper, senior Curator Emerita of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, who curated the 2012 exhibit A World Apart Next Door: Glimpses into the Life of Hasidic Jews, which was visited by more than 250,000 people. In her article she describes her professional perspectives and the many religious, social, and cultural Jewish issues she had to deal with while planning this very successful exhibit. Her objective was not to make a political statement regarding Hasidism but to focus on the cultural aspects of Hasidic life revealed through customs (shown via documentary films) clothing, books, and ceremonial and mundane objects. She describes how she used the aesthetic spaces of a museum exhibition to enable a few representative objects to convey a whole culture and give the spectators a glimpse into the macrocosm lying behind them.
Dr. Batsheva Goldman-Ida, Tel Aviv Museum of Art curator of special projects, wrote an essay on the exhibit she curated in the summer of 2016 in honor of 100 years of the Dada movement, entitled Alchemy of Words: Abraham Abulafia, Dada and Lettrism. For her, part of the challenge of the exhibition was to find Abulafian ideas in modern and contemporary literature and art, in order to supplement the Dada and Lettrist works and so provide a contemporary context for Abulafia’s medieval mystic endeavor.