Jewish Museum presents As it were … So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom

. March 26, 2013

Jewish Museum presents As it were … So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom an exhibition on view March 15–August 4, 2013.

As it Were So to Speak-The Jewish Museum NY
Installation view of As it were … So to Speak. Photo: David Heald/The Jewish Museum, © 2013.

Barbara Bloom has devoted her career to questioning the ways we perceive and value objects. With a light touch and subtle wit, she divines the meanings encoded in the things with which we surround ourselves. In an installation drawn from The Jewish Museum’s collection of more than 25,000 works of ceremonial, decorative, and fine art, she sets a selection of objects in unconventional contexts and offers visitors new ways to view the museum and its holdings.

Inspired in part by Talmudic discourse, in which discussions and commentaries take place across time and space, Bloom uses the paneled rooms of the former Warburg Mansion as both museum and home, and filled with imagined historical guests. Visitors are invited to eavesdrop on their conversations, carried out through the juxtaposition of found texts, Bloom’s writings, and artworks displayed in furniture-like cases. For example, a gaming table containing a Dreyfus Affair game board and ancient Roman dice imagines a game between Nefertiti, Emile Zola, Jesus, and Amy Winehouse. Composers George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg are envisioned seated at a piano whose strings are composed of Torah pointers, discussing a game of tennis. The subjects are wide-ranging and reflect ideas that have long interested the artist: inferring a whole from surviving remnants, navigating the intricacies of bestowing gifts, representing the unspeakable.

The title—As it were … So to speak—suggests that what is heard is not exactly what it appears to be. In the artist’s vision, the objects at the core of the installation have transcended their traditional functions and spark new dialogues.

In Dialogue
The Jewish Museum and the New School for Public Engagement are presenting a series of performative dialogues in conjunction with the exhibition As it were … So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom. Each evening concentrates on a different aspect of “dialogue,” pairing speakers demonstrating theory and practice. Programs at The New School are free. Programs at The Jewish Museum are free with pay-what-you-wish admission. Program details and locations at

Thursday, April 4, 7pm
Dialogue between representatives and moments: Christian Wolff and Mark Enslin
Christian Wolff is a composer of music and social systems. Mark Enslin is a composer and teacher at the School for Designing a Society.

Thursday, April 11, 7pm
Dialogue under observation: Hannah Hurtzig and Paul Pangaro
Hannah Hurtzig is a Berlin-based curator and dramaturge whose work deals with communication in the public sphere. Paul Pangaro is a cybernetician and Professor of Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts, investigating the needs of human beings in relation to technology.

Thursday, May 2, 7pm
Dialogue and metaphor: Avital Ronell and Vanessa Place
Avital Ronell, Professor of German, Comparative Literature, and English at New York University, co-directs the Research in Trauma and Violence project. Vanessa Place is a poet and criminal appellate attorney.

Thursday, May 16, 7pm
Dialogue between strangers and the past: Michael Taussig and Anthony Coleman
Michael Taussig is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Anthony Coleman is a composer and pianist.

The Artist
Barbara Bloom was born in Los Angeles in 1951 and lives in New York. Among her most celebrated pieces are The Reign of Narcissism (1989) and her 1994 permanent installation of Thonet bentwood chairs at the Österreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Vienna. In 2008, an extensive survey of her work, The Collections of Barbara Bloom, was shown at the International Center for Photography, New York and at Martin-Gropius Bau in Berlin. The artist’s recent installation, Present (2010), addresses the intimacy of gift-giving.

Museum hours
Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays: 11am–5:45pm
Wednesdays: closed
Thursdays: 11am–8pm (Pay-what-you-wish after 5pm)
Saturdays: 11am–5:45pm (Free)

As it were … So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom has been coordinated by Susan L. Braunstein, Henry J. Leir Curator at The Jewish Museum. The exhibition designer, Ken Saylor of Saylor + Sirola, worked collaboratively with the artist on the visualization and realization of this project.

This exhibition is made possible with endowment support from The Skirball Fund for American Jewish Life Exhibitions. Additional support is provided by the Alfred J. Grunebaum Memorial Fund, the Leir Charitable Foundations and the Leon Levy Foundation.

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128
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F +1 212 423 3232

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