Israel Museum renewal

More than a national museum

MúzeumCafé 36.

The Israeli Museum’s Givat Ram neighbourhood houses the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed, a model of the Second Temple, the Billy Rose Art Garden, a Youth Wing, an Archaeological Wing, the Jewish Art and Life Wing, the Bella and Harry Wexner Gallery and the Fine Arts Wing. Beyond the area, in East Jerusalem but belonging to the same institute, are the Rockefeller Museum, which has a rich collection of architectural finds, and the Ticho House. It was three years ago, in July 2010, when the refurbished museum again opened to the public. Reconstruction was primarily necessitated by the growing number of art objects – today approximately half a million items are held by the museum – but services to the public and the museum’s inner structure also required alterations. The large-scale renovation project, given the name ‘Renewal’, was entrusted to James Carpenter Design Associates of New York and Efrat-Kowalsky Architects of Tel Aviv. The primary consideration was to connect the display of material and visual culture in the rebuilt spaces, and the creative integration of the museum’s new section in the existing architectural structure. The museum’s director, James S. Snyder, was for ten years deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Exhibitions he was involved with include Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective (1980) and Henri-Matisse: A Retrospective (1992). The Israeli Museum was built in the 1960s as a national museum. Today, without losing its original character, it has assumed international significance, thanks to the work of James S. Snyder and the internationally renowned exhibitions he has organised. In Israel universities and museums are in state ownership, and cultural and educational institutes are inextricably linked with Israeli politics, but the state’s role is not exclusive.