Despite a public outcry from Holocaust survivors and a nearly universal dismissal from art critics, the public has not stayed away from The Jewish Museum’s controversial exhibition “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art.”
Nor have they come out in droves.
The widespread mass media coverage prior to the March 17 opening has surprisingly lead to no great surge or decline in attendance.
Using the Sunday admission benchmark, normally the museum’s busiest day (it is closed on Saturdays), about 1,300 people came for the opening day. That day was greeted with a demonstration by about 100 survivors, children of survivors, and other community members outraged at the artwork inside, such as “Lego Concentration Camp Set” and fas.hion label canisters of Zyklon-B.
In following Sundays, visitors edged up to 1,700 on March 24, 1,500 on March 31, and 1,300 on April 7. Museum spokeswoman Anne Scher explained that while the figures are less than the record 2,400 for a Chagall exhibit, they’re typical for a contemporary art show.
The crowds could have been higher, but most New York art critics told readers that the show was not worthy of the debate it had spawned.
“The irony is that none of the art in ‘Mirroring Evil’ is worth protesting, except on artistic grounds. Most of it is harmless, which is its only crime,” Jerry Saltz wrote in the Village Voice.
That the art was “both offensive and aesthetically totally off the charts” perturbed Menachem Rosensaft, a lawyer and founding chair of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors who led the charge against the museum to cancel the show. “We were dragged through this muck only for the benefit of Tom Sachs,” he said about the artist of “Giftgas Giftset” and “Manischewitz Luger.”
No further protests are planned, he said.
“Look, I have a day job that keeps me busy, and we have much bigger concerns over what’s happening in Israel than to worry about the intellectual vagaries of The Jewish Museum.”