The Art Wing is currently closed to the public due to the comprehensive program of renewal at the Israel Museum.
The Museum's wing for the fine arts is formally called the Bezalel Art Wing, an indication that its origins date back to the museum established in conjunction with the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. A 1928 article surveying the main departments of the Bezalel Museum describes a collection of “pictures and sculptures by the finest Jewish artists . . . and by ancient artists . . . [and] a series of more than six hundred etchings, copper engravings, and graphic works by the masters, which form a special cabinet for original works on paper." Today the Israel Museum’s Bezalel Art Wing boasts some 150,000 works, and its Department of Prints and Drawings alone—the descendant of the “cabinet” of graphic works—numbers approximately fifty thousand sheets.
To assemble a museum collection from scratch is a formidable task, and the wing has made gratifying progress toward this goal. The present collections attest to an unparalleled history of gifts and contributions from a devoted group of friends.
Today the ten curatorial departments of the art wing form four units, each with a number of departments with related subject matter and activities: the departments of European Art and Modern Art; the departments of Israeli Art, Contemporary Art, and Design and Architecture (including the Art Garden, Information Center for Israeli Art, and Ticho House); the departments of Prints and Drawings and Photography; and the department of Asian Art and the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
The wing presents a wide range of exhibitions annually, and of these an increasing number travel abroad to venues around the world. As examples, after opening in Jerusalem in 2000, Dreaming with Open Eyes: The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art in the Israel Museum drew nearly 500,000 visitors to two tour cycles, first in North America and then in Latin America. Double Dress, the first mid-career retrospective of artist Yinka Shonibare, was presented at the Israel Museum in 2002 and then traveled to contemporary venues in Helsinki and Milan.
More than any other part of the Israel Museum, the Bezalel Art Wing reflects the encyclopedic character of the Museum’s collections. Its exceptional diversity inspires exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, that create rich visual and content-based juxtapositions that illuminate revelatory connections between widely varied cultures.
Yulla and Jacques Lipchitz Chief Curator of the Arts
The Landeau Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art