After 30 years under the leadership of Joan Rosenbaum, the Jewish Museum has named Claudia Gould as its new director. Gould currently serves in that same post at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Exhibitions and staff members have tripled and attendance has doubled at the ICA since her appointment there 13 years ago; Gould surely hopes to achieve similar successes in New York.
Founded in 1904, the Jewish Museum began with a set of 26 ceremonial objects donated to the Jewish Theological Seminary. Today, that collection has grown to contain over 26,000 pieces of Jewish art including paintings and sculptures as well as Judaica and archaeological objects, with objects dating from ancient times to the modern era.
Rosenbaum, the longest-serving director in the museum’s history, is retiring at the end of this month. Her tenure was marked by a renewed emphasis on the institution’s Jewish identity; the museum had spent much of the ’60s and ’70s focused on contemporary art, with exhibits like the landmark Minimalist show “Primary Structures” in 1966. Unafraid to confront controversy, the museum mounted the 2002 exhibition “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art,” which presented 13 international artists who create work with imagery drawn from the Nazi era and was met with a furor. The newly hired Gould is expected to strike a better balance between the dual artistic and cultural aspects of the museum’s mission.
At the ICA, Gould was responsible for organizing Lisa Yuskavage and Charles LeDray’s first museum exhibitions, and for developing strong ties with other museums through initiatives for traveling shows. She is known for her interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art, incorporating cultural elements as diverse as performance, architecture, design and writing.
Speaking with the New York Times, Gould has announced her intention to periodically reinstall the permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey,” established by Rosenbaum. Contemporary artists and curators will draw from the museum’s expansive collection to create new installations. Gould also plans to reinvigorate the institution’s website, and to attract younger visitors with work by living artists as well as architecture and fashion exhibitions. Gould expects that her contemporary background will strongly influence upcoming programming.