GRAPEVINE: Israel Museum goings-on

A behind the scene look at the national museum of Israel.

By
April 27, 2018 10:36
3 minute read.
Robert Indiana's Love sculpture at the entrance of the Israel Museum

Robert Indiana's Love sculpture at the entrance of the Israel Museum. (photo credit: TALMORYAIR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

 
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■ SINCE THE October 2017 announcement of his appointment, very little has been heard about Israel Museum director Prof. Ido Bruno , who succeeded Eran Neuman , head of the Azrieli School of Architecture at Tel Aviv University. Neuman quit less than three months after his appointment. People working at the museum attributed his departure to the ever-looming shadow of his predecessor James Snyder , who even after stepping into a newly created role of international president for the museum’s worldwide activities, continued to be involved in every aspect of the museum, causing resentment among curators.

Snyder in 1997 succeeded Martin Weyl , the Dutch child Holocaust survivor whose first foray into art was in Theresienstadt, where at the age of four, he drew a visiting Red Cross jeep. Weyl, who had worked as a curator at the museum before his appointment as director, had a close relationship with the museum’s founder, legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, whose memory is currently being honored at an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Vienna, where it will remain on view until November 25.

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Snyder had extensive managerial experience and also proved to be a first-class fund-raiser who brought new supporters into the museum, developed valuable contacts with major museums around the world and oversaw the impressive revamping and expansion of the Israel Museum. He was also an extremely eloquent speaker. After returning to New York, where he had previously been deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art, he frequently returned to Jerusalem and remained involved.

Around the time that Snyder was switching roles, news reports were published to the effect that he had been receiving a double salary – one from the American Friends of the Israel Museum and one from the museum itself. The overall seven-digit annual figure made the Israel taxation authorities sit up and take notice.

Shortly after Bruno’s appointment, lawyer Itzhak Molcho , who is chairman of the Israel Museum and is very close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , for whom he has performed numerous diplo - matic missions, was named as a suspect in the German submarine affair. It was subsequently reported that police will recommend that he be indicted.

The Snyder case, coupled with the Molcho case, have to some extent negatively impacted on the museum, which may account for Bruno’s low profile, aside from which he has no managerial or fund-raising experience, but he had an excellent reputation as a designer and lec - turer at Bezalel, where he had been a student prior to joining the fac - ulty some 25 years ago. Meanwhile, the Israel Museum continues to stage new exhibitions on a regular basis, and curators are happier because Bruno gives them much more freedom in making decisions than Snyder did.

■ THE INTENTIONS of the Jerusalem Municipality and Beit Avi Chai in honoring the memories of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism were praiseworthy, but like so many plans, they somehow went awry.

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Although entry to the nighttime memorial event at Safra Square was free of charge, everyone needed a ticket. The start for distribution was announced for 7:30 p.m., by which time there were already long queues, even though the event was not due to start until 9. It actualy started closer to 9:30. Gatekeepers at the barricades leading into the square refused to allow anyone to enter. Everyone was already stand - ing when the wail of the siren penetrated the night air, so the drama of people rising in unison was lost. For a long while, the crowd sat in respectful silence, waiting for something to happen. Then an animated character came on screen. This was the annual Avi Chai initiative, which was conceived seven years ago by Yotvat Weil and curated by Noam Nadav under the title of “Face of our Memories.”

The short animated films are made in cooperation with families who lost loved ones to war or terrorism.

Thee films were endlessly repeated between performances by Ronit Shahar , Shuli Rand , Corinne Alal and other big names in Israel’s entertainment industry. The result was that people voted with their feet, and the solemnity of the occasion was lost as they made their way to a minimarket at the intersection of Jaffa Road and Shlomzion Hamalka, which was one of the few commercial enterprises that were open and was doing a roaring trade.

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