The Jewish Museum Remembers Maurice Berger (1957–2020) Read More
The Jewish Museum Remembers Maurice Berger (1956–2020)
The Jewish Museum is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of writer, curator, and historian Maurice Berger, who has died at the age of 63.
While serving as Research Professor and Chief Curator at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Berger curated Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television at the Jewish Museum in 2015. The acclaimed traveling exhibition explored how avant-garde art influenced and shaped the look and content of network television in its formative years.
Berger was also Consulting Curator for the Jewish Museum’s 2008 exhibition Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976. His timeline, included in the exhibition and accompanying publication, mapped key art and visual culture moments that defined the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, and examined the contributions of Jewish, African-American, women, and gay artists in post-war art.
In addition to his work revitalizing the Jewish Museum’s National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting, the largest and most comprehensive body of broadcast materials on 20th-century Jewish culture in the United States, Berger also contributed several essays for Jewish Museum catalogues, including Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities (1996); Masterworks of The Jewish Museum (2004); Modigliani: Beyond the Myth (2004); The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats (2011); The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936–1951 (2011), and most recently for the forthcoming exhibition Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine.
For more than 25 years, Berger was a valued colleague and friend of the Museum who passionately demonstrated the highest standards of scholarship and intellectual integrity. His work on race relations, American and Jewish culture, and his belief in making exhibitions and the written word meaningful and accessible for everyone, inspired, challenged, and encouraged so many in the curatorial profession — and beyond.
Berger’s writing was a strong reflection of his thinking and ethics. A frequent contributor to Jewish Museum publications, he used language to convey his compassion for people of all backgrounds and experiences, particularly workers, the poor, people of color, ethnic minorities, women, gay men, and lesbians. Driven more by questions than formulaic answers, he writes in the Masterworks of The Jewish Museum catalogue:
“Who owns history? Who does history serve and for whom is it written? Who has been left out of history and whose voices should be heard?”
Today we have lost him in our lives — a small consolation is that he will live on in the important and powerful work he accomplished.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story cited Berger died of complications related to COVID-19. As reported by the New York Times on March 26, 2020, Berger exhibited severe symptoms, but was not tested for the virus.
Read our 2015 interview with Maurice Berger on the occasion of his exhibition Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television.
The Jewish Museum Remembers Maurice Berger (1957–2020) was originally published in The Jewish Museum on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.