The Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing reflects the wide-ranging, interdisciplinary nature of the Museum’s collections, encompassing works of art from across the ages in Western and non-Western cultures. The wing has been reorganized to highlight connections among works from its diverse curatorial collections, which include: European Art; Modern Art; Contemporary Art; Israeli Art; the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Asian Art; Photography; Design and Architecture; and Prints and Drawings. Installations are organized to underscore visual affinities and shared themes and to inspire new insight into the arts of different times and places, as well as an appreciation of the common threads of human culture. The reconfigured wing includes the Museum’s first permanent galleries for Israeli art; more than doubled gallery space for the Museum’s extensive collections in modern art; providing meaningful connecting points between Western and non-Western holdings; and a full 2,200-square-meter (7,200-square-foot) gallery floor devoted to changing displays from the Museum’s collection of contemporary art.
Highlights on view
The Fine Arts Wing was originally 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 Fine Arts Wing boasts some 150,000 works - its Department of Prints and Drawings alone, a descendant of the “cabinet” of graphic works, numbers approximately 50,000 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 an increasing number of these travel abroad to venues around the world. For example, 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 Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts 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.
The Landeau Foundation Curator of Contemporary Art
Highlights newly on view include:
• The Jacques Lipchitz Collection, in a unique kunstkammer-like display, includes thousands of artifacts from Africa, Oceania, the Americas, Asia, medieval Europe, and the ancient world. The objects, assembled by Lipchitz throughout his lifetime, are presented for the first time in the Modern Art galleries, together with works by the sculptor which they inspired.
• Gustave Courbet, Jura Landscape with Shepherd and Donkey
(ca. 1866), depicting Courbet’s famous donkey, Gérôme, in the “Free Country” region frequently depicted by the artist.
• Alberto Giacometti, Diego in the Studio
(1952), a melancholic portrait of the artist’s brother, and the first painting by this influential 20th-century painter and sculptor to enter the Museum’s collection, on display for the first time.
• Ohad Meromi, The Boy from South Tel Aviv
(2001), a colossal sculpture of an adolescent African boy, which communicates the dissonances between the demeaning poverty of refugee life and the majesty of the scale of the work, against the calm backdrop of the museum as a cultural sanctuary. This 2008 acquisition is displayed in the Museum’s renewed Upper Entrance Hall.
• Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud
, (latent studio) (2007), a monumental installation of 15,000 black paper moths. This work, acquired in 2009, is on view for the first time in the inaugural contemporary art exhibition Still / Moving.
• Cup in the form of a boy clinging to a lotus stalk, China (17th century), carved from a rhinoceros horn, is one of the most important and beautiful objects of its kind in the world. The rhinoceros, now extinct in China, was treasured for its horn, and cups made from this material were believed to neutralize poison.
• Leopard head hip mask from Benin Kingdom, Nigeria (17th century), a rare pendant worn by high-ranking officials on their left hip, under a scabbard or sword. Donated to the Museum in honor of the inauguration of its renewed galleries, the mask is expertly cast in brass with copper studs inserted through an intricate process that testifies to its authenticity.
See the department curators on the senior staff list.