Jewish gallery courts controversy with crucifixion show
Some critics say exhibition of cross imagery caters to non-Jewish audience
By Katharine Albritton. Web only
Published online: 26 July 2010
The Ben Uri Gallery, London’s Jewish Museum of Art has stirred up controversy by showcasing an exhibit of crucifixion paintings by artists including Graham Sunderland.
Critics denounced the show, “Cross Purposes: Shock and Contemplation in Images of the Crucifixion”, as inappropriate for a Jewish museum. Benjamin Perl, a patron of the gallery went so far as to say the museum was “trying to play to the non-Jews. What type of material is this for our Jewish museum?”
David Glasser, co-chairman of the gallery, responded in an email to supporters by saying that the museum is “very proud to represent the Jewish community in the mainstream but this like all our challenging exhibitions are totally from the artistic context. Ben Uri as a museum does not address issues from a religious context.”
Glasser was also concerned by a poll on the website of the Jewish Chronicle (since finished) asking whether or not a Jewish museum should stage an exhibition of Crucifixion art. The poll came out overwhelmingly in favour of the show, with 63% of participants supporting it.
Glasser mentioned that many of the people complaining about the show had not actually visited the exhibition. The point of the exhibition, he said, was that the representation of the Crucifixion has evolved from being a sacred Christian image into a “generic image to powerfully highlight the cause in question”. Glasser also commented that since the initial backlash the gallery had received many messages of support.
“Cross Purposes” contains 28 works by artists such as Tracey Emin, Duncan Grant, and Lee Miller. It is on show at the St John’s Wood-based gallery until 19 September.
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