Israel Museum’s longstanding and well-connected director to step aside

In new role US-born James Snyder will continue to foster Jerusalem institution’s global relationships<br>


The Israel Museum will be seeking a new director as James Snyder announced that after 20 years at the helm of the Jerusalem institution he will become its international president. The US-born director, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1997 having worked at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is due to take up the new role in January 2017.

Snyder’s successful fundraising and the institution’s global network of supporters, which he has been instrumental in developing, enabled the institution to complete a $100m renovation and expansion of its hill-top campus in 2010. The project included new commissions by Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson as well as a comprehensive modernisation of it galleries. Israel’s president and prime minister attended the rededication ceremony of the museum, which is one of the State of Israel’s largest cultural institutions.

In 2013, Snyder welcomed US President Obama to the Israel Museum. “We have had many visits by heads of state but Obama’s visit was special,” Snyder says. Obama, who had visited the museum before he became US President, spent an hour viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls in the purpose-built Shrine of the Book, discussing Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Snyder says.  

Major donations to its encyclopaedic collection of archaeology and art that Snyder has helped to secure include the 700-strong Dada and Surrealist collection, given in 1998 by Arturo Schwarz. Highlights from the collection went on show in 2014 at the Hermitage to mark the St Petersburg museum’s 250th birthday.

Snyder has greatly developed the Israel Museum’s relationships with its international peers. Recent high-profile loans to the Israel Museum include bronze portraits of the Roman Emperor Hadrian from the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London, which are on show until 25 June. Another exhibition marking the institution’s 50th anniversary includes Twilight Over Berlin with loans from Berlin’s Nationalgalerie (until 7 June). The exhibition includes 50 works by Kirchner, Dix, Kandinsky, Klee, and Beckmann among others.