The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, one of my favorite museums, is now featuring one of my favorite exhibits.
The Dorothy Saxe Invitational, a biennial exhibit whereby artists are asked to interpret a Jewish ritual object, is on view through May 17.
In the past, artists have been asked to interpret Purim masks, menorahs, Kiddush cups, spice boxes, trees for Tu B’Shevat and Seder plates.
For this year’s invitational, the museum asked 38 West Coast artists and contemporary craftspeople to reimagine the tzedakah box. Participating artists were encouraged to interpret this unique object from a contemporary perspective, exploring its ongoing relevance. Working in a wide range of media, from wood to glass to paint and graphite, the artists have explored many facets of the tradition.
The tzedakah box is traditionally a humble container found in synagogues, Jewish homes, and institutions in which charitable donations are deposited. This ritual object relates to one of the most important obligations in Judaism—to give to those in need regardless of your means. Hebrew for “righteousness,” “tzedakah” is an act of charity in Jewish culture and faith, and the tzedakah box is a physical reminder of this commitment.
“The Dorothy Saxe Invitational embodies the museum’s mission of presenting artistic excellence, exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, and providing opportunities for artists to examine traditional Jewish concepts,” says Lori Starr, executive director of the CJM.
All the tzedakah boxes on exhibit will be available for purchase in an ongoing silent auction beginning Thursday, April 9. If you’re interested, you can get more information and register here.
There’s a catalog for sale in the museum store with full color plates of each work along with related essays.
Below are some of my favorite boxes from the show. If you live in San Francisco or are visiting, the show is a must see! And if you can’t make it to the show, you can buy the exhibition catalog online.
****Next week is a roundup of my favorite traditional tzedakah boxes.****