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The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
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Verbal Description Tour
Wed, Nov 20
Wednesday, November 20, 2019|
The Sound of Color Series
Musical Gallery Tour + Art Workshop
Thu, Nov 21
Thursday, November 21, 2019|
ASL Tour & Reception
Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art
Thu, Nov 21
Thursday, November 21, 2019|
Dynasty Handbag presents Weirdo Night
Fri, Nov 22
Friday, November 22, 2019|
Cubism Comes to America
Sun, Nov 24
Sunday, November 24, 2019|
Gallery Tour, Art Workshop, & Concert
Sun, Nov 24
Sunday, November 24, 2019|
Hopalong Andrew & Band
Sun, Nov 24
Sunday, November 24, 2019|
Studio Art Sessions
Sun, Dec 1
Sunday, December 1, 2019|
Museum Store Sunday
Book Signing with Humor Editor and Cartoonist Bob Mankoff
Who We Are
Welcome to the Jewish Museum, a museum in New York City at the intersection of art and Jewish culture for people of all backgrounds. Whether you visit our home in the elegant Warburg mansion on Museum Mile, or engage with us online, there is something for everyone. Through our exhibitions, programs, and collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media, visitors can journey through 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture from around the world.
The Jewish Museum is dedicated to the enjoyment, understanding, and preservation of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Jewish people through its unparalleled collections and distinguished exhibitions. Learn More
The Jewish Museum was founded in 1904 in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where it was housed for more than four decades. Located along New York's Museum Mile, this elegant former residence has been the home of the Museum since 1947. Learn More
In Line for Polish: An Illustrator’s Response to Leonard Cohen Read More
In the final days of Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, the Jewish Museum invited illustrator Samuel Ferri to reflect on his visit to the exhibition by way of sketches and prose.
During my visit to the Jewish Museum’s presentation of Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, I waited in line to enter the artist Ari Folman’s Depression Chamber. I don’t know what the average waiting time for a depression chamber should be, but it seemed just short enough to be a steal.
Once inside the room, I lay on a table that resembled something between an altar and a therapist’s couch as the song “Famous Blue Raincoat” played in full. Written in the form of a letter attempting to catch up with an elusive, long lost figure, it alludes to a love triangle at the center of a parting of ways and perfectly epitomizes Leonard Cohen’s status as the patron saint of odes to doomed romance.
To accompany Cohen’s soft lamentations and reminiscences, animations projected onto all of the walls carefully formulated each line of lyrics before the letters dissolved into a rich tapestry of iconography that floated to the ceiling like a snowfall in reverse. On the ceiling was my reflected projection, lying in repose, and the symbols collected over my body until they seemed to act as a blanket, tucking me in. There was something oddly comforting in this experience that perhaps speaks to the overall contradiction of Leonard Cohen — a poet who makes melancholy comforting.
It’s easy for me to say that I’ve loved Leonard Cohen long before coming to this exhibition. But why? What is it that’s attractive about his sound paintings that are so focused on despair? Cohen was never the voice of my generation. I was born in 1985. But I found my way to him in high school on the basis of what he represented. He was a revered figure among the misfit outsiders I admired and wanted to emulate. He was an intellectual oddity who seemed too cool for the mainstream and yet also too powerful to be ignored, with his songs becoming personal and cultural touchstones. While love songs make up the vast majority of popular music, Cohen sang of sexual acts and the interiors of complex, imperfect relationships, which was rarely attempted in the pop landscape. He revealed adult realities of love that no one else would tell me. He was a secret that most of the kids my age didn’t know about or care to know about, but if they did, it meant they were someone worth knowing.
Lying in the Depression Chamber, I thought about how, over the years, Cohen has been a source of bonding in some relationships — and a salve when they didn’t work out. I was married to someone once. We both loved Cohen. But our record collections sat next to one another, never fully integrating — a fitting metaphor for our time together. I remember her copy of New Skin for the Old Ceremony, its arrestingly sexual tarot figures are burned in my brain. Though I already knew most of the songs on the album, the cover art was new to me (I came of age listening to digitized music). The one song I hadn’t known contains the shouted line:
“Is this what you wanted … to live in a house that is haunted … by the ghost … of you and me!?”
After she was gone, taking the record with her, the song and its ghosts lingered. But Cohen’s voice provided comfort in its immortalization of private tragedy. It was a necessary meditation on humility, with echoes of a raw anger that was all too familiar. Perhaps Leonard Cohen’s music creates a bubble in which to feel and exorcise those emotions, like a safe space, but maybe more like Folman envisions, a depression chamber.
Artist George Fok’s multichannel video installation, Passing Through, pieces together interviews from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In one of these clips, Cohen says his words are no more or less functional than instructions found on a canister of shoe polish. When the interviewer then asks why a writer would choose to compose one over the other, with all humility, Cohen responds:
“It depends… If you want people to have shiny shoes, you want to write those kind of very good instructions, and if you want to polish other parts of yourself, you do it with poetry.”
In creating my own artwork in response to this show, I thought about the varieties of polish Cohen has provided audiences over the course of his career, the subtle varieties of shades and, best of all, their contradictions, which layer humor over heartache, explore beauty beside evil, and in doing so, aim to clean out some very hard to reach parts of our being.
— Samuel Ferri
In Line for Polish: An Illustrator’s Response to Leonard Cohen was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
Best in Show: Edith Halpert’s Dog, Adam Read More
On International Dog Day, we’re taking a closer look at Bernard Karfiol’s Edith Gregor Halpert and Adam, a 1935 portrait of the legendary American art dealer and her dachshund recently acquired for the Jewish Museum’s collection.
Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art, an exhibition exploring the legacy of the visionary dealer of American modern and folk art, opens at the Jewish Museum in New York on October 18, 2019.
In 1935, New York art dealer Edith Halpert was the reigning queen of the art world. Almost a decade earlier, she had opened the Downtown Gallery, a progressive art space in bohemian Greenwich Village that presented and sold an unusual combination of American modern and folk art, set at affordable prices. The gallery was as remarkable for its wares (few were selling such material) as it was for its female proprietor (most art dealers at the time were men). No one thought it would last. But within a few years, the gallery was attracting not just the middle-class buyers Halpert hoped to entice, but an ever-widening circle of serious art collectors and philanthropists, led by the adventurous and spirited Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. While many New York galleries shuttered during the Depression, the Downtown Gallery — due to Halpert’s extraordinary vision, eye for talent, and unparalleled business acumen — managed to stay afloat.
This portrait by Bernard Karfiol, may have been a tribute to the dealer in advance of the Downtown Gallery’s tenth anniversary. Although today Karfiol is not as well-known as some of Halpert’s other artists — a roster that included such luminaries as Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Ben Shahn — he was among her most popular painters during her lifetime. In 1932, when Halpert finally made her first sale to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was a landscape by Karfiol that the notoriously difficult to impress institution purchased. Esquire later claimed that Karfiol’s “dealer regards him as the finest figure painter in America and is even indiscreet enough to make no secret of this preference to the other artists whom she represents.”
Karfiol’s portrait of Edith Halpert shows her in a regal red dress, seated in a turquoise armchair with her hands wrapped around her beloved pet dog, Adam. Though she was only 35 years old when this likeness was done, she looks mature beyond her years, her blue eyes and thick dark brows offset by silver hair. Halpert claimed that five years earlier, when her husband, the painter Samuel Halpert, passed away unexpectedly, her hair “turned white overnight.” Though Edith and Samuel had had their disagreements, his death must certainly have been a shock to her system. Halpert never remarried; instead, her dachshund, Adam, became her most loyal life companion in the 1930s and early 1940s.
A series of photographs of Adam, preserved among Halpert’s official papers at the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., shows just how important Adam was to Edith. Halpert made sure that the dozens of artists she represented at the Downtown Gallery were provided with professional headshots for use in promotional materials and publicity. Adam, too, got the star-artist treatment, with both a headshot and full-body shot, showing off the full extent of his bite-size personality.
More candid pictures, taken at Halpert’s summer home in Newtown, Connecticut, shows how much affection she had for Adam, and how inseparable they were as a pair. Charles Sheeler took at least one of these intimate portraits, which he cheekily titled “Necking”: not only are Halpert and her dog canoodling, she is also firmly holding her pup around the neck.
Halpert was not alone in her love of dogs. Plenty of art world personalities, from Pablo Picasso before her, to Andy Warhol after, have had a particular penchant for dachshunds. Peggy Guggenheim, whose Art of This Century was the only New York gallery to rival Halpert’s in terms of radicality and sophistication in the 1940s, was rarely photographed without her outrageous sunglasses and at least one of her many prized lhasa apsos.
Dog companionship wasn’t just trendy, it was also good for business. Adam was perhaps the inspiration behind Halpert’s 1937 Downtown Gallery exhibition “American Dogs,” featuring portraits of champion dogs by the contemporary painter Stanford Fenelle, supplemented by a selection of folk paintings and sculptures of canines. Savvy as ever, Halpert timed “American Dogs” to coincide with the Westminster Kennel Club Show, held annually at Madison Square Garden, when the city would already be in a dog-focused frenzy. Throughout her career, Halpert sprinkled light-hearted thematic exhibitions like this one into her dynamic schedule of shows. Unlike other dealers, who believed art was a high-minded affair reserved exclusively for the elite, Halpert wanted to make American art accessible for all. Today, the proliferation of popular museum exhibitions about cats may in some part be traced back to Halpert’s democratic beliefs in the social role of art and, of course, her novel animal-centric show concepts.
Adam also proved unexpectedly useful to Halpert in her commercial dealings. Halpert counted many Hollywood actors among her clients, including Edward G. Robinson, who was famous for playing tough guys in gangster films like Little Caesar (1931). In 1937, Robinson visited the Downtown Gallery looking to purchase a painting by the celebrated Japanese-American artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi. As Halpert recalled:
“Robinson wanted a Kuniyoshi. He asked the price, and I said, “Four thousand dollars.” He put his arms around me, and he said, “Three grand, Babe.” Adam bit him. He couldn’t really bite him … Adam was about ten years old at the time and all of his teeth were gone … but he nipped his trousers and Little Caesar jumped about eight feet, and he let out a howl. He was so scared. I said, “You see, even my dog can’t stand your bargaining.” He didn’t know that nobody could touch me when Adam was around. Nobody. He paid the four thousand, but it was the dog that scared him, not I.”
Adam may have clinched this particular deal, but Halpert was no slouch when it came to the business of art. For over forty years, she ran one of the most successful galleries in New York, forging a market for American art when there had been none before her, and becoming a genre-defining influence in the field of American art.
— Rebecca Shaykin, Associate Curator
with Brianna Wu, Blanksteen Curatorial Intern
To learn more about Halpert’s remarkable career and accomplishments — and to see the portrait of Adam in person — visit the exhibition Edith Halpert and the Rise of American Art, opening at the Jewish Museum on October 18, 2019.
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