The Jewish Museum collection spans 4,000 years of Jewish culture through nearly 30,000 objects from around the world. From fine art to Judaica, the collection speaks to the global Jewish experience, whether by virtue of the subject depicted or because a work represents a significant contribution to art and Jewish cultural history.
In a year that was as tumultuous as 2016, many took to art of the past to search for answers about the present. Some explored these works of art online. For the second year in row, we examined the most viewed works in the Jewish Museum online collection based on Google Analytics data. The results, listed below, reflect the solemnness of the past year as well as timeless treasures in the collection that continue to inspire:
- Christian Boltanski, Monument (Odessa), 1989-2003
- Isac Friedlander, Exodus, 1931
- George Segal, The Holocaust, 1982
- Alfred Stieglitz, The Steerage, 1907
- Weegee, Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade, c. 1940
- Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, The Return of the Volunteer from the Wars of Liberation to His Family Still Living in Accordance with Old Customs, 1833-34
- Kehinde Wiley, Alios Itzhak (The World Stage: Israel), 2011
- James Jacques Joseph Tissot and Followers, The Flight of the Prisoners, from The Old Testament, c. 1896-1902
- Lee Krasner, Self-Portrait, c. 1930
- Nancy Spero, Ballade von der Judenhure Marie Sanders, 1991
- Nan Goldin, Self-Portrait in blue bathroom, London, from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1980
Christian Boltanski’s Monument (Odessa) was the most viewed work in our online collection in 2016. Through found photographs of children, the deeply moving installation explores themes of loss and death perceived through the prism of memory. Unlike artists such as George Segal who directly memorialize the victims of the Holocaust, Boltanski has said: “My work is about the fact of dying, but it’s not about the Holocaust itself.”
Iconic photographs in the collection such as Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage and Weegee’s Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade tell the story of immigration and assimilation in America — a heated topic of debate in 2016. As history reminds us, the concept of migration is not new to the 20th century: In 1931, Isac Friedlander’s dramatic woodcut Exodus depicted the Exodus in ancient Egypt when the Israelites were delivered from slavery. In 1896, James Jacques Joseph Tissot painted The Flight of the Prisoners — Jerusalem’s destruction at the hands of the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C.E.
Last but definitely not least, women exploring a sense of self (in self-portraiture) appeared to be another theme in 2016, as seen in the Self-Portrait by Lee Krasner and Nan Goldin’s Self-Portrait in blue bathroom, London from The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a well-known photographic slideshow set to music. The soundtrack for this segment was a 1967 song by the Velvet Underground. It began: “I’ll be your mirror/reflect what you are, in case you don’t know/I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset/the light on your door to show that you’re home.” Like Goldin’s portrait, 2016 was indeed a year of self-reflection and the search for light.
Looking for a work of art that expresses your thoughts about 2016? Explore thejewishmuseum.org/collection.