Press Release

Museum Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2015

Jerusalem, Israel

Year-Long Season of Special Exhibitions and Programs Illuminates Visual Culture in Israel from its Early 20th Century Roots in Europe to its Most Contemporary Expressions Today

A Centerpiece of the Anniversary Year is A Brief History of Humankind as Told through Twelve Seminal Works from Museum’s Universal Holdings

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2015 with a year-long series of special exhibitions reflecting on the Museum’s achievements since its founding and underscoring the local and universal dimensions of its collections and programming. From exhibitions uniting seminal works from across the Museum’s encyclopedic holdings, to displays showcasing masterworks on loan from sister institutions, the Museum’s anniversary year features the shared narratives of cultures and civilizations worldwide. Special focus is given to the trajectory of Israel’s own visual culture, from its roots in Europe more than 100 years ago, to the founding of the Museum in 1965, through the present day.  Major gifts across all of the Museum’s collections that have been committed since the Museum’s renewal in 2010 are also on view throughout the year, highlighting the breadth of support worldwide that has contributed to the ongoing growth of the Museum’s encyclopedic holdings.

“Since the Israel Museum’s founding in 1965, we have made remarkable strides in building a preeminent collection that stretches across the breadth of world culture and reflects the global cultural and historical narrative that is shared by all of our audiences,” said James S. Snyder, the Museum’s Anne and Jerome Fisher Director. “Throughout 2015, we are celebrating our accomplishments over the past 50 years, in parallel with the unfolding of Israel’s visual cultural history during this same time and in relation to the 50 preceding years of modernist visual culture in Europe that would become the foundation for Israel’s aesthetic heritage.  We also look forward to the next chapter in the Museum’s history, building both on the transformative renewal achieved across our 20-acre campus in 2010 and on the generosity and support of our network of international friends, as well as the collegial support of our sister institutions worldwide.” 

“It is a rare privilege to have led the Museum’s Board of Directors for more than a decade, and it is particularly rewarding now as we celebrate this tremendous institutional milestone,” said Isaac Molho, Chairman of the Museum’s Board. “When he founded our Museum five decades ago, Teddy Kollek envisioned a truly encyclopedic museum in Israel.  In the years since, the Museum has succeeded in creating meaningful connections with cultures from around the globe and with our nation’s creative heritage. I am certain that the Museum’s message of universalism, emanating from Jerusalem, will continue to resonate across the world’s cultural landscape within Israel and internationally.”

Kicking off the Museum’s celebratory year are several solo exhibitions by contemporary Israeli artists working today— offering snapshots of Israel’s visual creativity of the moment—coupled with an examination of Israel’s visual culture at the time of the Museum’s founding. 1965 Today (March 31 – August 29, 2015) immerses visitors in the visual character of Israel during the mid-1960s, beginning with a dioramic illustration of the popular design aesthetic of the time. The exhibition includes works by artists who participated in Israel’s emerging art scene and also references the art and artists they would have seen or known internationally at the time.  Complementary exhibitions focus on early film and photographic imagery from the same era and on the iconic graphic design work of one of Israel’s most important practitioners during the mid-1960s. Concurrently, 6 Artists / 6 Projects (February 10 – August 29, 2015) presents new works by some of today’s leading contemporary artists in Israel, whose practice resonates in counterpoint with the aesthetic traditions that accompanied the opening of the Museum 50 years earlier.

Opening in May as a centerpiece of the anniversary year is a focused exhibition that features fourteen pivotal objects from across the Museum’s collections that illustrate the history of human civilization from prehistoric times through the present day. A Brief History of Humankind (May 1 – January 2, 2016) presents a series of seminal objects—from the first evidence of communal fire nearly 800,000 years ago, to early depictions of gods and goddesses, to the earliest evidence of writing, and finally to Albert Einstein’s original manuscript for the special theory of relativity—that each in its own way represents a turning point in the trajectory of civilized human history.

The second half of the anniversary year, opening in the fall, surveys the European roots of modern visual culture in Israel. Twilight Over Berlin (October 20, 2015 – March 26, 2016) features 50 masterworks that celebrate the avant-garde freedom that flourished in Germany in the first half of the 20th century. Among others, Expressionists Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde and such Weimar-period innovators as Max Beckmann and Otto Dix are represented with works on loan from the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin through an institutional partnership that marks the concurrent celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. At the same time, the Museum presents companion exhibitions spotlighting the European modernist heritage that influenced the pioneers of modern Israeli typography, graphic arts, and architecture. Together, this ensemble of exhibitions amplifies the ways in which aesthetic traditions migrated from Europe to Palestine in the period before World War II and became foundational for the development of Israel’s visual culture and, in parallel, of the Museum itself. 

Coinciding with the Museum’s anniversary celebrations are two special installations in the Museum’s Shrine of the Book—home to the Dead Sea Scrolls—which opened to the public in April 1965 as a prelude to the inauguration of the Museum’s entire campus. On view beginning April 19, 2015, is a dedicated display examining the history of the Shrine itself, whose design by Frederic J. Kiesler and Armand P. Bartos has been lauded as an icon of international modernist architecture, as well as being the only permanently executed example of Kiesler’s trademark language of expressionist modernism. Additionally, as a contemporary counterpoint to the ancient history of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the world’s smallest Hebrew Bible, the Berrie Nano Bible created by the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, will go on view for the first time.

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