Janos Plesch: Father, Mother, Child, 1928
After having visited many contemporary galleries and artist studios in Berlin, I designated an afternoon in order to visit the Jewish Museum and Berlinische Gallery respectively. The Jewish Museum was erected in Berlin in 2001 and is architecturally a work within itself. The building, designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind, focuses on a diagonal experience giving the viewer a chance to move his or her body in a subtle yet unpredictable way, never following a straight line. I was reminded of the curving ascending floor in the rotunda of New York’s Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and erected in 1959. The museum is an homage, not only to the Jewish experience and diaspora but also focuses on contemporary Jewish life. This was a pleasant surprise being that most museums rely on archiving the past rather then focusing on contemporary visual semantics.
Exterior view in museum backyard.
Entering the exhibition space which commences subterranean one level below the ground, we are led through a maze of objects locked away in glass boxes. Ranging from packages never opened to handkerchiefs and photographs, they are remnants of the Holocaust and personal affects for many who never returned from the camps in which they were sent and detained. I felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach as I shuffled from container to container reading the stories compiled by survivors and now on permanent view. This particular section finishes in a triangular room with high angled walls and small slivers that reveal natural light. It happened to be a sunny day, and for that I was grateful.
H&M Sweater that mimics Jewish prayer shawl
Continuing to higher galleries on the third floor, the museum takes the viewer on a historical journey of Jewish religion and culture. I was particularly fascinated by the references to fashion and the Jewish tendency towards entrepreneurship. In a historic and not so distant past, they were excluded from participating in many other state based opportunities for employment. Items of clothing by Levi’s & Strauss along with a shawl from H&M play an important role in the importance of the Jewish migration within contemporary Western society.
In the waxing and waning process, I couldn’t help but have an onset impending sense of doom. As one sits back and lets the constructed ebb and flow of the museum structure guide his/her pace, anyone who is informed on the Historical occurrences of World War II will know that hundreds of thousands of Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. This being said, along with the building as participatory member within the lucid schema, I was pleased to reach the end of the many gallery rooms with a sense of calmness and peace, if however melancholy. The final gallery is filled with glowing boxes illuminating photographs; survivors and children of survivors, quotidian and proof of human resilience.
Jewish Museum BerlinLindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin
Hours of operation are: Monday 10 am-10 pm, Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 8pm.