Jewish art museum's crucifix exhibition

Emmanuel Levy’s 1942 Crucifixion

Emmanuel Levy’s 1942 Crucifixion

Supporters of the London Jewish Museum of Art have reacted furiously to a new exhibition which addresses the Crucifixion.

The Cross Purposes – Shock and Contemplation in images of the Crucifixion show traces artistic representations of the Crucifixion, from solely Christian interpretations to modern-day images.

Among the artwork on display at the museum's St John's Wood gallery are depictions of Christ on the cross by Tracey Emin, Graham Sutherland and Duncan Grant.

More than 300 people attended the official opening on Tuesday night.

But the gallery has had a substantial number of complaints about the show.

Gallery co-chairman David Glasser defended the exhibition, saying it had been handled sensitively and intelligently.

But Benjamin Perl, a Ben Uri patron, was among the critics. He said: "From all the subjects from our heritage, why choose this? They are trying to play to the non-Jews. Why don't they call it a Christian museum?

"When you build a Jewish institution, you have to build it with God's help and believe you are marching with destiny. If you are just doing it to collect money it's ridiculous.

"What type of material is this for our Jewish museum? This would never happen in New York or Jerusalem."

Arts columnist Norman Lebrecht said the issue posed interesting questions for art-lovers.

"What's a Jewish art gallery doing putting on a show of crucifixions? The idea has drawn torrents of abuse from Jewish supporters of the museum, who argue (rightly) that the crucifixion image has been the incitement for 2,000 years of Christian persecution of Jews.

"The gallery counters that the man on the cross was Jewish; it's time to reclaim that heritage and discuss the terrible act from the victim's viewpoint."

Mr Glasser said: "Many people will ask why we are addressing this sensitive subject. Religious iconography of whatever faith, within an artistic context, is a core part of this museum's repertoire."

Last updated: 3:33pm, June 24 2010