"Elevated," Matthew Fishbane on the Israel Museum for Tablet Magazine

Anish Kapoor, Turning The World Upside Down (2010), Jerusalem
The Israel Museum’s impressive $100 million renovation awkwardly attempts to redefine the Jewish world.

James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum since 1997 and overseer of its recent $100-million renovation, repeated several times over the course of a two-day press junket in Jerusalem last month that his institution offers nothing short of “an intuitive experience of 1 million years of material culture.” If this description sounds a little blissed out, it is also entirely in keeping with the museum’s hilltop location, which puts the museum on par with the Knesset and the Supreme Court. The site on which the Israel Museum stands was chosen in the 1960s in accordance with former Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek’s Greco-Roman vision of a capital crowned by the legislative, judicial, and cultural branches of national identity. Snyder’s “renewal” of the museum seeks to recast Kollek’s classical approach in even more exalted and transcendent terms. One of the museum’s two new site-specific commissions, Anish Kapoor’s 16-foot “Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem,” appears to lift the inverted museum and surrounding dry hills into the blue sky in a way that invites the viewer to experience the site as a universal state of mind rather than as an institution of the state. Like the sculpture, the renovations are beautiful. But what about the people they now reflect?

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