The current exhibit at New York?s Jewish Museum, ?The Art of Matrimony: Thirty Splendid Marriage Contracts from the Jewish Theological Seminary Library,? is, essentially, a room full of contracts. True, they are beautifully decorated, restored and mounted. But their raison d?être is as legal documents ? each stipulating the conditions of a marriage.
Sotheby’s New York sale of important Judaica, an annual event featuring ceremonial metalwork, manuscripts and printed books, takes place this year on December 15. Leading the auction are a pair of Italian-made silver Torah finials belonging to Sha’ar HaShamayim, the Great Synagogue of Gibraltar. Other items such as 15th-century Torah scroll from Poland are also for auction.
Even in self-imposed exile in France, Avigdor Arikha is one of Israel’s best-known artists. He is a master draftsman, a BBC lecturer on art history and a knight of the French Légion d’Honneur. In November, a painting of his library, called “Books,” fetched $134,000 at Sotheby’s annual New York auction of Israeli artists. So it is a surprise to find a rare complete set of his 18 wood prints, “Pages de Guerre — Israel 1948-1949,” on display at the corporate headquarters of grocery distributor Krasdale Foods in White Plains, N.Y. The man behind the exhibition is curator Sigmund Balka, a New York attorney and art collector who has staged more than a hundred innovative exhibits at the Krasdale Galleries over the past two decades.
The sparkling glass walls of the new Derfner Judaica Museum look out across the Hudson River by way of a sculpture garden on a rolling green lawn. Look back, and you see the impressive contemporary art collection of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. The museum’s clean, modern design, by architect Louise Braverman, looks to the future as it displays the historic pieces of the inaugural exhibition, Tradition and Remembrance: Treasures of the Derfner Judaica Museum. The theme — the importance of collective and individual memory — is reinforced throughout the exhibition by both showing the rare objects alongside their stories, and by the associations they trigger in viewers.
The Ten Commandments have served as a guide for human behavior and outlook for thousands of years, yet rarely, says artist Rudi Wolff, have they inspired visual artists. In the exhibit Ten Commandments/Ten Images: A Visual Journey, presented in New York City through April 29 at Saint Peter’s Church’s Narthex Gallery, at 54th Street and Lexington Avenue, Wolff offers a modernist take on “the rules.”
Ironically, Barbara Wolff was driven back in time to the laborious techniques of medieval illumination by nothing less than today’s icon of modernity: the computer. When the accomplished botanical illustrator, who would spend days drawing a flower perspective, saw that the same thing could be done instantly with computer-aided design, she knew her craft was about to change. At a career crossroads six years ago, she decided to take a four-day workshop in medieval manuscript illumination. The result was, so to speak, golden.
When Yael Golan’s mother was a girl in Uruguay, she’d drop a few coins into the Keren Kayemet box every Friday at her Jewish day school and sing a little song: “Dunam by dunam, shekel by shekel, building the land of Israel.” Recently, 35 years after immigrating to Israel, Golan’s mother sang that song again, when Golan told her she was curating an art exhibition based on the blue box.