Monday, December 03, 2007

The New Spertus Museum

Bruno Schatz

I don't even think it's called a "Museum of Judaica" any more, now it's the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies and rather than having a gallery for its permanent collection of visual arts, it has a "Depot" where things are displayed behind plexiglass on a 20 foot high, semi-circular wall -- without labeling of any kind.

So they've given up on being a museum of historical Jewish art and artifacts.

Admittedly, the small, dark gallery in their previous building was hardly appealing -- but instead of expanding on that display, they've retreated away from being an art gallery and towards a collection of memorabilia -- like the old baseballs and team uniforms that might be found in a sports museum.

The shame of this is --- they actually do have some good Jewish art on Jewish themes -- like the work of Bruno Schatz. (like all-too-many museums, they don't allow photography -- but the above piece resembles the bronze panel they have on display) And even if they don't have a lot more -- a good collection could inexpensively be made today -- especially of painting and sculpture from the 20th C. (well... the Marc Chagalls would be expensive)

But what's the point of putting things on display without labels and often poorly lit or poorly seen (i.e. the items placed near the floor or 15 feet in the air)

They do offer an audio tour that's supposed to identify and explain everything -- but what if you don't want to hunt through the entire audio program to hear about the few pieces that you find of interest ? (I don't know how well the audio tour works -- since it wasn't installed yet when I was visiting)

So the only real museum of Jewish art in America is still Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Maybe the current administration feels that America doesn't need a second museum of Jewish art -- and that the Jews of Chicago would not be interested in having one here anyway.

And maybe they're right.


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