Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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Books on Art and the Jewish
Tradition: 1980-1990
a s
t h e
f i e l d
k e e p s
changing, so does the published material
around and within the field. In the case o f art-related materials,
that’s very good news, indeed. In fact, there is reason to char­
acterize the new differences as expansions in a series o f diverse
directions, rather than just variants on what has been. Moreover,
a decade’s review in this field makes evident that there is too
much material about which to comment. That, too, is a satisfying
All o f this reflects a number o f circumstances in the realm
o f art and the Jewish world, their often uneasy relationships,
and the institutional connections that result. Given its cost, pub­
lishing (especially art publishing) seldom occurs without some
perceived sense o f audience. Thus, when we survey the amount
o f art material that has been published, we can also see the
expansion o f the audience, in significant ways that would have
been unpredictable a decade ago. Whether this also reflects vast­
ly increased popular knowledge, rather than simply expanded
general interest, is still unclear. But like the proverbial chicken
soup, it can’t hurt.
An earlier generation of Jewish art books tended to easy cat­
egorization: Judaica, Jewish artists, Jewish art and/or “culture”
surveys. That covered areas o f greatest interest and knowledge,
especially in a field with little organizational underpinning and
even less societal confirmation. It also reflected the relatively
limited programs o f Jewish museum operations, often still grop­
ing for a sense o f balance between scholarly role commitments
and visitor lures. The gradual modulations — to another time
and situation — are interesting to chart, although this is not
the place for a full exposition o f these changes.
Increased activity in existing Jewish museums, as well as the