About 2 years ago I blogged about Helena Rubinstein’s magnificent show at this museum. One of the most beloved and unique museums in the city of New York, within a relatively short walking distance from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a jewel of culture, housed in an exquisite building on 5th Avenue and 92nd Street. The visit begins with entering the breathtaking building and instantly one is transported to an incomparable atmosphere of rarified grace. The collections intersect 4,000 years of Jewish culture and art, stunningly combining antiquities with the latest in modern masterpieces.
The museum has a tradition each January, one I shall have to sadly miss this year &ndash The New York Jewish Film Festival, showcasing the preeminent cinematic offering from all over the world. The common thread among the comedies, dramas, documentaries and wondrous shorts, is the exploration of the Jewish experience.
The curators are adventurous and magical. In this one rather small museum, in addition to the permanent collection, every few months they present an exhibit of a famous Jewish artist, with pieces often seen in the US for the very first time.
This time it’s the early drawings of Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) calling the exhibit “Modigliani Unmasked’. The artist, an Italian Sephardic Jew, arrived in Paris in 1906 when the city was still embroiled in antisemitism at the heels of the Dreyfus Affair. As It often happens the influx of foreign emigres enflamed things and some of the greatest minds of the time, Emil Zola wrote “J’Accuse’, an open letter to the President in defense of Captain Dreyfus. Hatred of all Jews and the injustice and conspiracy against Dreyfus was still simmering hotly when Modigliani arrived in Paris. The artist’s Jewish heritage is closely connected to the way he responded to the social realities he faced. There was a need to assimilate his complex cultural identity and embrace the diversity which society presented him with. The approximately 150 drawings, all from the collection of his close friend and first patron Dr. Paul Alexandre can only be truly understood if one takes into account the period he emerged as a young artist. In his short life he left a serious and celebrated mark which obviously came at emotional cost,
His drawings as well as a selection of his early paintings clearly show his enmeshed plight to find himself in a world of racial complexity, and his struggle to discover an expression of his own identity. The young man has a mysterious and unfinished portrait of Dr. Alexandre, seen for the first time in the United States. There are his impressions of the theater, female nudes and life studies, one of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. He showed his signature style which later manifested itself in his sculptures as well.
The exhibit will be on from Sept 15, 2017 &ndash Feb 4, 2018.