Judaic Art Gallery Closes to Expand

One of many things to anticipate this year at the NCMA is an expanded Judaic Art Gallery. The gallery, the first and finest permanent display of Jewish ceremonial art in an American art museum, will undergo a major renovation. It closed in early February and will reopen in June in an expanded space with new display cases and a larger selection of beautiful objects.

The idea of this project began last year with the curator’s wish to make some minor adjustments to the gallery installation. “All I was really looking for were a few tweaks,” recalled John Coffey, the Museum’s deputy director for art and curator in charge of the Judaic Art Gallery. But Chief Exhibition Designer Eric Gaard had another idea. Rather than just tweak the present installation, Gaard suggested a far more ambitious remake of the gallery, in answer to the steady growth in the Museum’s Judaic art collection.

As part of the renovation of the Judaic Art Gallery, five Plexiglas display cases will be replaced with larger, custom-designed glass cases. “These cases will give us greater flexibility and security,” noted Eric Gaard. “They are also beautiful and will present the pieces in the very best light.” Coffey emphasized that “our principal goal with this project is to build the Judaic Art Gallery to its optimal size with the finest quality display cases sufficient for the next 25 years.”

Because the gallery is expanding to accommodate future growth, in the short term the new space will be too large for the existing Judaic art collection. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Coffey has arranged with the Jewish Museum in New York to borrow 12 Judaic objects from its encyclopedic collection. These loans will serve as placeholders for future acquisitions. And down the road the Museum hopes to borrow Judaic treasures from the Israel Museum and other major collections, public and private.

The expanded Judaic Art Gallery will reopen in June 2015.

Says NCMA Director Lawrence J. Wheeler. “Finally, we will have a Judaic Art Gallery the size of our ambitions.”

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