Exhibitions History

The Magnes has a fifty-year history of presenting exhibitions that break new ground in Jewish Studies research, build upon the collaboration between curators and UC Berkeley faculty and students, expand Judaica connoisseurship, introduce under-recognized Jewish artists of the 20th century, and take risks with experimental projects by contemporary artists. Many of its exhibitions drawn on selections from its extensive collections, or commissioned works that use the collections as inspiration. 

This page is a growing archive of the exhibition history of the institution since its founding in 1962. The description of each exhibition is augmented by texts and label texts, images, press releases, links to press coverage and artists and contributors websites.

Visitors to the website who have been involved with any of the exhibitions created by the former Judah L. Magnes Museum and wish to contribute additional materials are encouraged to do so, reaching out to our staff through our contact information page.

Larger Than Life: Jonah and the Fish | Maftir Yonah by Mordechai Beck and David Moss

On View: 
Aug 27, 2015 to Dec 18, 2015

The Book of Jonah is the only prophetic book of the Hebrew Bible read in its entirety in the synagogue. Recited during the Afternoon Service on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jonah’s story addresses the relationship between man and God, destiny and free will, prayer and salvation.

The Future of Memory: Jewish Culture in the Digital Age

On View: 
Jan 27, 2015 to Dec 18, 2015

What should we remember, what should we forget, and who decides? 

The Future of Memory: Jewish Culture in the Digital Age is a new project of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life that includes an installation, exhibition, and digital research lab in which museum professionals, scholars, students, and the public, discuss the meaning of memory and the many facets of digital history.

The Secret Language of Flowers. Botanical Drawings from Israel, 1949-1950

On View: 
Jan 27, 2015 to Jun 26, 2015

In 1984, The Magnes acquired a portfolio of botanical drawings by Shmuel (Samuel) Lerner, a Ukraine-born amateur artist from California. While Lerner’s biography and many details surrounding this work remain obscure, today his drawings open for us a unique window into the landscape, the history and the languages of Israel in the period immediately following the establishment of the State.

Literary Minds. Soviet Jewish Writers portrayed by Matvey Vaisberg

On View: 
Aug 28, 2014 to Dec 19, 2014

In 2014, The Magnes acquired twelve works by the New York Times-featured Ukrainian artist, Matvey Vaisberg, including the portraits of eight Russian Jewish authors. 

Several of the authors portrayed by Vaisberg were Yiddish writers murdered by the Soviet regime on August 12, 1952: Itzik Feffer (1900-1952), Leib Kvitko (1890-1952), Peretz Markish (1895-1952), and David Hofstein (1889-1952). Other portraits include prominent writers such as Sh. Aleichem (1859-1916), O. Mandelstam (1891-1938), B. Pasternak (1890-1960), and J. Brodsky (1940-1996). 

Saved by The Bay: The Intellectual Migration from Fascist Europe to UC Berkeley

On View: 
Aug 28, 2014 to Dec 19, 2014

During the Spring Semester 2013, faculty, curators and students interviewed current and Emeriti UC Berkeley faculty, and researched the University Archives of The Bancroft Library. This work unearthed hundreds of primary sources documenting the lives of a group of intellectuals who came to Berkeley as refugees from European fascism. These individuals contributed much to the academic life of our University, becoming world-renowned leaders in all fields of scholarship.

Holy Land, California

On View: 
Sep 10, 2013 to Jun 27, 2014

In 1974, the Judah L. Magnes Museum commissioned Albert Garvey (b. 1932, Chicago), a photographer, printmaker, and graphic designerthen living in Fairfax, California, to create a portfolio of views of contemporary Israel.

Lands/Scapes: On Painting and Jewish Geography

On View: 
Sep 10, 2013 to Dec 13, 2013

This is the first exhibition to highlight landscape art from The Magnes collection. Spanning the twentieth century and following the paths of Jewish migration, the exhibition offers of a new look at the artists' relationship with the sites and spaces they inhabited. From Western European Impressionism to Eastern European Realism, from Romanticism of the Americas to Modernism of Israel/Palestine, images of the land were created at the intersection of pictorial traditions and ideological values.

Modern Jewish History 101: The Art Files

On View: 
Aug 28, 2012 to Jun 28, 2013

A panorama of Jewish life in the 20th century as told through images from the vast art collection at The Magnes. Paintings and sculptures by prominent artists illustrate key historical moments from pogroms to emigration to the Holocaust. The artists’ biographies are telling in their own right, revealing stories of global migration, Nazi persecution, trauma, and restitution.

Case Study No. 3 | Sound Objects

On View: 
Jan 22, 2013 to Jun 28, 2013

Sound Objects combines the study of Jewish material culture with the emerging field of sound studies and investigates the role of objects that emit sound during synagogue rituals. The exhibition includes a selection of over sixty objects, books, manuscripts and photographs from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life documenting ritual in the global Diaspora, and integrates on-site display with online resources that comprise images, texts, and the sounds recorded by “playing” several of the ritual objects on view. 

Reborn: Posters from the European Jewish Cultural Renaissance

On View: 
Aug 28, 2012 to Jun 28, 2013

The nearly one thousand posters acquired since the 1960s by the former Judah L. Magnes Museum constitute an important component of the pictorial holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. Purchased in Jewish museums throughout the world, obtained via the networks of ephemera connoisseurs, or simply taken off walls in the streets of Jerusalem, these materials today represent an invaluable source of historical information.

Case Study No. 2 | The Inventory Project

On View: 
Aug 28, 2012 to Dec 14, 2012

The display cases at the very center of The Magnes building are designed to unleash the curatorial mind by presenting diverse collection items, a variety of display modes, and a wide range of perspectives. This is the ideal platform for the Case Study exhibition series, conceived as a “scholar’s playground.” Each year, UC Berkeley faculty, graduate students and visiting scholars will collaborate with the curators of The Magnes in creating collection-based exhibitions based on emerging research.

Typo/Graphics: Studying Jewish Types in Print and Photography

On View: 
Aug 28, 2012 to Dec 7, 2012

The main gallery presents an exhibition drawn from The Magnes’ vast collection of prints and photography. The broad selection by director Alla Efimova is an investigation of the use of reproducible images in ethnographic and documentary studies of Jewish lives, since 18th century to the present. The selection includes the well-loved images by Marc Chagall, Hermann Struck and Neil Foldberg as well as works by less known and anonymous image-makers. The focus is on the study of Jewish types in communities throughout the world.

Dissolving Localities | Berkeley Jerusalem

On View: 
Jan 22, 2012 to Jun 29, 2012

Emmanuel Witzthum’s multimedia project, Dissolving Localities, has focused for the last several years on the layers that compose the city of Jerusalem. Witzhum and the artists he invited “perform” the city as a musical/visual instrument. By interweaving recorded sights and sounds, ranging from birds’ songs to street noise, from prayer fragments to church bells, the project creates an expanding open-source multimedia montage, highlighting contrasts and unexpected harmonies.