How A Museum Can Lift Our Spirits And Share Common History Through Art-The Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews

The Rickie Report shares our visit to the newly opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, through the eyes of artist and art patrons. We went to recapture part of our heritage, before WWII, and to support the educational efforts to teach acceptance and tolerance of “the other”.  This article will focus on two main features: the role of architecture of this edifice and the highlight of the Core Exhibit itself.  While we publish on Holocaust Remembrance Day, we celebrate this visit because it is a museum of life, rich in culture, ready to be shared.

 

 

Welcome to the Museum!

 

 

 

Outside the Museum Plaza

Outside the Museum Plaza

 

The Museum of The History of the Polish Jews

 

 

The architecture of every building tells a story.  What can we learn as we visit this museum?   The Museum is situated on the ruins of a prewar Jewish neighborhood, where the Germans established the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII.  It faces the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, commemorating how Jews died.  The Museum memorializes how they lived among their Polish neighbors.

 

Museum, Outside View, Left of the Entrance

Museum, Outside View, Left of the Entrance

 

From the outside, we can see the overriding chasm coming together with an inner bridge, the undulating walls and massive panes of glass.  Like art itself, the interpretations are left to the viewer.  We overhear other guests, ” Is it the splitting of the Red Sea?”  ” Is it breaking with the past and moving toward the future?”  “Is it the chasm caused by WWII, when 90% of Polish Jews perished?”  What does it mean?  There is one, clear glass corner of the building on the first floor, where we can see colorful chairs. The bright colors hint at what we will find inside.

 

 

Etched Glass Columns

Etched Glass Columns Of the Museum Facade

 

 

Before we even enter, we notice the Latin letters “Polin” and their Hebrew counterparts, silk screened on the vertical glass and copper columns.  The word, “Polin” in Hebrew means “Rest Here”.  The Museum serves as a common meeting place for a diverse public, an opportunity to learn, discuss, and grow continued tolerance.

 

 

 

Walking Up the Ramp into The Museum

Walking Up the Ramp into The Museum (Courtesy of Museum of History of Polish Jews)

 

As we enter, we walk up the ramp toward the naturally lit interior.  The  light that fills this space is magical, as shadows dance around the smoothed, rolling walls. We are met by a Museum Intern, Iwona Oleszczuk and walk into the space.

 

Museum Interior Walls

Museum Interior Walls

 

Chief Architect, Rainer Mahlamäki says, “This place called for light; a natural radiance that would illuminate the surroundings”. The building, a postmodern structure in glass, copper, and concrete, was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma. A plaque tells us that “Since the museum presents the whole history of Jews in Poland, not only the period under German occupation, the designer wanted to avoid similarities to existing Holocaust museums which had austere concrete structures. The architects kept the museum in the colors of sand, giving it a more approachable feeling.  They won the 2008 International Architecture Award in recognition of their bold and innovative design”.

 

Rear View of Museum

Rear View of Museum (Courtesy of Museum of History of Polish Jews)

 

 

 

Children twirl to their own tunes and adults speak in soft voices. Outside, at the back of the museum through an all glass wall, we can see a large grass lawn, with people sitting and enjoying the sunshine.  From this vantage point, we can also see the top of the wooden synagogue, plain and bear wood planks meeting at the roof top.  We cannot see into the Core Exhibit, but it beckons.  This is like peeling an onion, layer by layer. We look at some explanatory signage and are anxious to see where the next step will take us.

 

 

 

Roof Beams from the Core Exhibit synagogue below

Roof Beams from the Core Exhibit Synagogue below

 

Visitors are brought into the time and place  of the story itself.  The exquisite painted ceiling and timber framed roof of the 17th century wooden Gwozdziec Synagogue is the highlight of this visit. Over 400 volunteers from all over the world recreated it over a period of 10 years at 85% scale.  They used old drawings by Alois Breir to paint the interior.  To construct and assemble the wood beams, they recreated the same tools used to build the original structure.  

 

Welcome to the Core

 

We are greeted by Curator, Eva Malkowska-Bienick, who brings us down to the Core Exhibit.  At the time, we are the only visitors because the Museum had not officially opened yet.  Walking off the elevator into the basement level of the museum, I was unprepared. We stepped into a replica of the Gwozdziec Synagogue.  I have never seen such bright colors on a synagogue ceiling, or any ceiling. I had to catch my breath!  There are zodiac symbols, depictions of animals (real and mystical) , quotations form Hebrew liturgy and images recalling the Jewish calendar. Each had been painstakingly painted on the ceiling and upper walls.  

 

 

 

Close-Up of Gwozdziec Synagogue Ceiling

Close-Up of Gwozdziec Synagogue Ceiling (Courtesy of Museum of History of Polish Jews)

 

 

The Core Exhibition is a journey through 1000 years of the history of Polish Jews – from the Middle Ages until today.  Eva explained, “The Core Exhibition is a narrative: visitors will be drawn into a story told by artifacts, paintings, interactive installations, reconstructions and models, video projections, sounds and words. Our focus is on life, therefore at each stage of the journey we strive to remain close to life by letting people speak – Jewish merchants, scholars or artists from a given era, rabbis, housewives, politicians, chroniclers and revolutionaries. We give the floor to those who perished and to those who survived.  We present 1000 years of Polish-Jewish coexistence, speak of cooperation, rivalry and conflicts, autonomy, integration and assimilation. While seeking to confront thorny issues, we also bring attention to bright chapters in our common history”.

 

 

Close-Up of G Synagogue Ceiling

Close-Up of Gwozdziec Synagogue Ceiling (Courtesy of Museum of History of Polish Jews)

 

According to the Museum website, “The Core Exhibition was developed by a team of international scholars and curators under the direction of Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. The design was created by Event Communications, a London-based company, and by Nizio Design International from Warsaw. Thanks to these teams, the Core Exhibition employs reliable methods as well as cutting-edge multimedia solutions”.

 

 

 

Synagogue Bimah (Courtesy of M. Starowieyska D. Golnik Museum of History of Polish Jews)

Synagogue Bimah (Courtesy of M. Starowieyska D. Golnik Museum of History of Polish Jews)

 

 

While many of the Eight Galleries were not ready for visitors,  we were able to interact with some of the technicians who were tweaking the final stages of one interactive module.   We asked about the general public’s reaction to this facility.  One said, ” We have a curiosity of Jews before the Holocaust and this is a place which shows commonality, not just catastrophe.”  This echoes the Musuem’s Vision Statement, “To make the Museum of the History of Polish Jews an important and innovative center of research, education and culture – a platform for social change, offering a profound, transformative experience and promoting new standards of narrating history.”

 

Synagogue

Model of Gwozdziec Synagogue

 

An explanatory sign tells us, “This model of the wooden synagogue that once stood in Gwozdziec was created in workshops organized by Handshouse Studio for the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.  The model is based on the research of Kärol Maszoswki, Alois Breier, Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka, and Thomas Hubka.  Rick and Laura Brown, directors of Handshouse Studios donated this model to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews”.

 

The Rickie Report thanks our Museum guides and the Museum website for technical information used in this article.

 

To learn more about the Museum:

 

http://www.polin.pl/en

 

 

 

For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

The Rickie Report

P.O.Box 33423

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33420

Rickie@therickiereport.com

561-537-0291

 

Ilene Adams on the Road

There is still time for vacation!  The Rickie Report was happy to share some suggestions of art-related places for Ilene Adams to visit as she and her husband, Norm, drove north ending up in Massachusetts.  Ilene, a multi-talented artist in her own right, helps other artists market their work.  Ilene’s artwork can be found at Art on Park (Lake Park) and OSGS (Northwood). She shares her travelogue with our readers as well as some fascinating exhibits and sites.

 

 

 

Ilene Adams On The Road

 

 

Every summer, my husband drives to New Jersey to see his father.  I did that trip in reverse 22 years ago, when one daughter was 3 and I was pregnant with the other one.  I swore I would never do it again.  This year we were invited to one of my best friends son’s wedding in Massachusetts so it made sense that we would combine the trips and drive.  I did my best martyr routine and said I would bite the bullet and make the drive up with my husband. To cope with the long ride decided I would make the most of it and visit old friends, New York and some museums and Mass MoCA in the Berkshires near where the wedding was to be.

 

 

 

 

Armed with Sirius radio and a 1000+ page book on my Nook, we began the journey north on Father’s Day.  We stopped in Jacksonville for lunch to see my youngest daughter (the one I was pregnant with) and then headed up to North Carolina for our midway stop and arrived in New Jersey on Monday.  Tuesday morning I woke up early, eager to visit my old stomping grounds in NYC and took New Jersey Transit to meet my older daughter, Kayla. We visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art where there were several exhibitions I looked forward to seeing.  

 

 

Sculpture from "The Lost Kingdoms"

Sculpture from “The Lost Kingdoms”

 

 

Lost Kingdoms, an exhibit of Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia was one of them. There were about 160 sculptures on loan from the earliest kingdoms of Southeast Asia known as the “lost kingdoms”. It was an amazing collection to see and a once in a lifetime opportunity as it was never seen before in its entirety and most likely won’t be again.

 

 

 

Next stop was the inaugural exhibition at the newly renovated Costume Institute that examined the career of legendary twentieth-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978. It explored James’s design process, specifically his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today. The retrospective features approximately sixty-five of the most notable designs James produced over the course of his career, from the 1920s until his death in 1978.   It was beautifully curated and used high tech analytical animations along with text, x-rays, and vintage images to tell the story of each gown’s intricate construction and history. 

 

 

 

Quote from Charles James

Quote from Charles James

 

 

 

 

 

The rooftop installation by Dan Graham is the second in a new series of site-specific commissions for the Museum’s Roof Garden. Comprising curves of steel and two-way mirrored glass set between ivy hedgerows, Graham’s structure is part garden maze, part modernist skyscraper facade. Viewers who enter the work are transformed into performers; in glimpsing their own reflections, they are also made acutely aware of the act of looking.

 

 

 

Dan Graham Exhibit @ Met

Dan Graham Exhibit @ Met

 

 

 

Leaving the museum we strolled through Central Park and had the chance to see Swiss artist Olaf Breuning’s Clouds at the southeast entrance of Central Park, at 5th Avenue and 60th Street. They are 35 feet tall held aloft among the trees. The six bright blue clouds are made of polished and painted aluminum.

 

 

"Clouds"

Olaf Breuning’s “Clouds”

 

 

After dinner in New Jersey with the family, we went back to New York on Wednesday to visit Kayla in her new apartment by Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. I had been to the New York Botanical Gardens many times but had never been to Brooklyn’s and was pleasantly  surprised by its size and beauty.

 

 

At the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

At the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

 

The Botanical Garden, called the premier horticultural attraction in the region by The New York Times, is New York City’s natural wonder, where no matter what the season, something is always in bloom. There are many different gardens with different themes including the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the fragrant Cranford Rose Garden, the children’s Discovery Garden, and  the Steinhardt Conservatory, containing the world famous C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum. Everything was in bloom and there was a constant riot of color where ever one looked.

 

We spent a few days in New  Jersey visiting friends and then we headed to Lenox, Massachusetts to a great bed and breakfast and a fabulous meal.  After living in Florida for 11 years I was enthralled with the mountains, the trees, the winding roads the fresh air and the quaint shops and galleries. 

 

 

MassMoCa

MassMoCa

 

Saturday morning after a delicious breakfast we jumped in the car and headed to North Adams and Mass MoCA, a museum that did not exist when I lived in Massachusetts and one I have been wanting to visit. I surprised at the size of the complex and what an incredible job was done in converting the factories into a magnificent art space. The design and architecture alone is worth the trip. 

 

 

MassMoCa Tower

MassMoCa Tower

 

Mass MoCa is housed in a converted manufacturing facility that is a vast complex of 19th-century factory buildings. The site’s 26 buildings form an elaborate system of interlocking courtyards and passageways rich with historical association. Bridges, viaducts, elevated walkways, and red brick facades lend a distinct architectural ambiance to the complex. 

 

 

 

Upside Down Tree Sculpture at MassMoCa

Upside Down Tree Sculpture at MassMoCa

 

 

There were several exhibits throughout the complex as well as outside sculptures and installations. Occupying one of the large buildings, a historic mill, with three floors of work is the Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective. Taking nearly six months of intensive drafting and painting by a team of some sixty-five artists and art students, Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective installed the show and it will remain on view for twenty-five years.

 

 

Sol

Sol LeWitt Exhibit

 

Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective comprises 105 of LeWitt’s large-scale wall drawings, spanning the artist’s career from 1969 to 2007. These occupy nearly an acre of specially built interior walls that have been installed—per LeWitt’s own specifications. It is unbelievable to see the scope and intricacies of this work.

 

 

 

T Fernandez Exhibit

Teresita Fernandez Exhibit, “As Above So Below”

Teresita Fernández: “As Above So Below”  exhibit combines graphite and gold to create a series of immersive, interconnected installations whose scale shifts from intimate to vast, from miniature to panoramic. Fernández’s largest solo exhibition to date, As Above So Below is made up entirely of new works.

 

Detail of Fernandez Exhibit

Detail of Fernandez’ Exhibit “Sfumato”

 

 

 

Fernandez’s “Sfumato” (Epic), is a large-scale site-specific installation that spreads across the walls of the museum’s central galleries like an organic swarm. The work consists of over 40,000 small rocks of raw, mined graphite – each with a small, hand-drawn, graphite mark, almost like a cosmic trail – emanating from each fragment. In its entirety, “Epic” functions as a constellation. Up close, individual graphite elements and clusters become miniaturized landscapes of their own.

 

 

Darren Waterston, "Filthy Lucre"

Darren Waterston, “Filthy Lucre”

 

Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty is the painter’s D installation “Filthy Lucre” — the centerpiece of Uncertain Beauty — is a contemporary re-imagining of James McNeill Whistler’s 1876 decorative masterpiece Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room. Waterston became fascinated with The Peacock Room both for its unrivaled union of painting and architecture and for its dramatic story of patronage and artistic ego.The artist reimagines and transforms the room into one of decaying extravagance.

 

 

 

Patkin Rug

Izhar Patkin Rug from “The Wandering Veil”

 

 

 

Izhar Patkin: ” The Wandering Veil” is the long-awaited survey of works by the Israeli-born, New York-based artist Izhar Patkin takes over the museum’s largest gallery. This is a fascinating exhibition of the artists works on sheer materials. 

 

 

"Dead Shoshana"

“Dead Shoshana” from The Wandering Veil Exhibit

 

 

 

Many of the works are room-sized images printed on fabrics and and are based on the poems of Agha Shahid Ali. There are several rooms wall size paintings in ink on pleated illusion (tulle curtains), 14 x 22 x 28 each.  There were also some of his sculpture and smaller paintings including Persian rugs painted on screening and other works on various fabrics. http://www.izharpatkin.com/ 

 

 

 

Izhar Patkin Sculpture

Izhar Patkin Sculpture

 

 

There were several other artists’ works shown as well including Mark Dion’s The Octagon Room, In Transit: Between Image and Object, Anselm Kiefer; The Dying of the Light; Film as Medium and Metaphor and Franz West sculptures. I have included some of the images and images of the other parts of Mass MoCa and you can go towww.MassMoCa.org to see more.

 

 

All in all , after 3400 miles, it was a great trip and I had the opportunity to see a wide variety of art , friends, family and landscapes. Maybe I won’t wait 22 years for the next trip!

 

Art-Related Links

 

 

http://www.bbg.org/ (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens)

For more information about Ilene Adams’ artwork or professional art services, please visit:

www.IleneAdamsInc.com

www.IleneAdamsFineArt.com

For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact The Rickie Report at:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

The Rickie Report

P.O.Box 33423

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33420

Rickie@therickiereport.com

561-537-0291