Harold Holzer’s having a big year. “Lincoln and the Jews,” a new exhibition he helped assemble, is on through June 7 at the New York Historical Society in Manhattan. His book “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion” (Simon & Schuster) just won the $50,000 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, awarded annually to a scholarly work on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War era. And Holzer himself shook up the art world by announcing his retirement from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he’s been a highly respected public affairs official for 23 years. The Forward talked with Holzer about the New York Historical Society show — and Lincoln’s unusual affinity for Jews, who made up a tiny American minority in his lifetime.
The exhibition gathers original documents, artifacts, photos, and Lincoln’s own writings, many from the private Shapell Manuscript Foundation, which collects original manuscripts and historical documents related to both Jewish and American life. “This show is not just for Jewish visitors,” Holzer said. “I don’t think we’ll get the chance to see this much treasury in one place again, if ever.”
Michael Kaminer: Was there anything that surprised you — one of the world’s foremost Lincoln scholars — as “Lincoln and the Jews” came together?
Sigalit Landau is known for provocative work, like the notorious video piece that showed her spinning a barbed wire hula-hoop, naked.
But Landau’s new show might be her saltiest yet.
The haunting assemblage of objects in “Snow in Jerusalem,” which runs through April 25 at Toronto’s Olga Korper Gallery, includes a bridal gown, violin, and fishing net completely encrusted in gleaming white salt crystals from the Dead Sea.
While the works weren’t created with the Canadian city in mind, “ice, snow, and salt have meanings in Toronto that might have brought some kind of additional value,” Landau said. “Things have different meanings in different places. In Toronto, the work has its own radiance.”
It took years for Landau to perfect her technique of encasing objects in the Dead Sea’s mineral-laden salt; the effect is hypnotic, and a little disconcerting. “When something gets filled with crystals, it becomes part of memory, dysfunctional and quite beautiful,” she said. “I put the violin under the water for several months in the summer until it became encrusted. For the wedding dress, I copied a black dress that was used in a production of ‘The Dybbuk.’ I put it in the Dead Sea; we took high-res video of how this black dress transformed into white. It ended up weighing 300 kilos.”
The Dead Sea looms large in Landau’s new work. “It’s so close to Jerusalem, where I grew up,” she said. “It’s like being next to a volcano. Or an anchor — an archaic anchor. It grounds me.”
“No man in Whitechapel drives a busier or a more paying trade than does the shadchan,” observed the writer Louise Jordan Miln in 1900. In fact, a ledger belonging to a shadkhen, or matchmaker, is one of the objects on display for the first time in “For Richer For Poorer: Weddings Unveiled,” the latest exhibition at the Jewish Museum London. Written entirely in Yiddish, the 1940s ledger shows a list of his prospective clients. A stamp depicting two hands shaking next to the names of a couple indicates when a successful match had been made.
“For Richer For Poorer” celebrates the story of the Jewish wedding in Britain’s Jewish community from the late 19th century to the mid-20th, focusing in particular on the immigrant community who settled in London’s East End. It showcases a range of objects and artifacts, including wedding dresses, photographs and hand-designed ketubot. Invitations, seating plans and menus provide further examples of how the community went about marking the occasion.
Many of the exhibits are from the museum’s own collection but have remained hidden until now. Their inclusion demonstrates a historic partnership with the public, says Abigail Morris, CEO of the Museum, and provide an insight into the traditions, cultural norms and social aspirations of the community. There are some real gems, such as the wedding dresses, which have been painstakingly restored for the exhibition and date from the early 20th century.
Samy Elmaghribi was a hugely popular Moroccan-music star. Salomon Amzallag was a beloved Sephardic cantor in Montreal.
That the pop star and the liturgical giant were the same person has inspired a new exhibition that opened in Montreal February 25.
“Sacre Profane: Samy Elmaghribi” explores the “seemingly opposite” notions of sacred and secular in Elmaghribi’s career; the show also delves into the rich cultural and spiritual life of Moroccan Jewish Montreal.
Posters and ephemera from Algeria, Morocco, France, Israel and Montreal “express Salomon Amzallag’s migration back and forth between these places,” said Stephanie Schwartz, curator of the exhibition and research director of the roving Museum of Jewish Montreal, which organized the show. The singer “was never happy getting cornered into one thing,” Schwartz said. “He was moved by the arts. And he was an observant Jew. But he was still able to tour as a popular singer.”
Yolande Amzallag, Elmaghribi’s daughter, agreed. “It was never a dichotomy in his eyes,” she told the Forward by phone from downtown Montreal, where she works as a translator. “In his life and practice, he didn’t see or live a contradiction. He blended both aspects very harmoniously. The only thing he didn’t reinterpret is some of his earlier songs — they’re more explicit, more erotic.”
Jonah Kinigstein, ‘Coney Island.’ Courtesy the artist and Society of Illustrators.
A certain Jewish weekly rejected one of Jonah Kinigstein’s scathing cartoons back in 2004; responding to the furor over Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” Kinigstein had drawn Jesus tossing the movie into a bonfire in front of the White House.
“I’d sent it to the Forward,” Kinigstein laughs. “They told me, ‘Sorry. We don’t publish cartoons from the outside.’”
Inadvertently, that exchange captured the paradox of Kinigstein’s career. An art-world pariah most of his life, he’s become an unlikely star at age 92, with an acclaimed exhibition of his savagely satirical cartoons at the Society of Illustrators in New York and a new book from comics powerhouse Fantagraphics that shares its title, “The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Tower of Babel in the ‘Art’ World. “
As that name attests, Kinigstein’s work rips into what he sees as the vapidity, pretension and inanity of 20th-century modern art, from institutions like MoMA to gallerists like Ilona Sonnabend to critics like Clement Greenberg. Sacred-cow artists — Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns – don’t escape his poison pen, either.
“I put the cartoons up on walls all over Soho,” he says. “I really gave these people the business. And I got a lot of pushback. Some people wanted to fight with me.”
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