Crucifixion show at Jewish gallery praised

By Marcus Dysch, July 1, 2010

The co-chairman of the London Jewish Museum of Art says he is "buoyed" by a wave of support for the gallery's decision to host an exhibition addressing the Crucifixion.

David Glasser said criticism last week of the launch of Cross Purposes – Shock and Contemplation in Images of the Crucifixion had been followed by an "exceptionally busy" weekend and around 200 supportive emails.

The exhibition at the St John's Wood gallery includes depictions of Christ on the cross by Tracey Emin, Graham Sutherland and Duncan Grant.

Critics claimed the material was unsuitable for a Jewish museum, prompting Mr Glasser to email supporters asking for their reaction. He said: "The issue had made Jewish art-lovers think about the whole principle of whether we should have restrictions set on us by some people's views of culture, which is a very good thing.

"People are questioning what the role of a Jewish museum should be and whether there should be taboo areas.

"We decided to survey the changes over a century of the most universally recognised artistic motif in any artist's repertoire. The potency of the Crucifixion has actually been heavily diluted."

Mr Glasser said it was wrong for critics to "let loose" with complaints if they had not seen the exhibition.

Among those offering support was Tom Freudenheim, Wall Street Journal art critic and a former director of
Berlin's Jewish Museum.

He said: "All sorts of imagery might offend an individual in viewing a museum exhibition - nudity, sex, religion, politics. But the role of our best and most creative museums is to enlarge our vision and our understanding, even if that occasionally makes us uncomfortable."

Artist Moshe Galili said: "The museum should be praised for its openness, its energy and courage in presenting an excellent exhibition that is very much part of the Jewish existence and experience whether we like it or not."

Gallery patron Mike Posen, who is religiously observant, said the argument had "totally missed the point".

"I'm baffled that people think we should not be showing this. I was actually astonished that a Jewish museum had not done it already," he said.

"Many of the people who complained had not actually seen the exhibition and seen what it is trying to do. It is a fascinating exhibition.

"The Crucifixion is a very powerful image that once belonged to Christianity, but has now moved quite clearly beyond that."

Last updated: 2:31pm, July 1 2010