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UC-Berkeley gets $10.1 million
grant to acquire works of
Holocaust artist Arthur Szyk

PUBLISHED: April 3, 2017 at 10:21 am | UPDATED: April 3, 2017 at 11:37 am

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC-Berkeley has acquired the
most significant collection of works by Arthur Szyk, a Polish Jewish artist and
political caricaturist who depicted the Jewish experience during key 20th-
century events such as the Holocaust, World War II and the founding of the State
of Israel.

The works were purchased from a private owner courtesy of a $10.1 million
grant to the Magnes from Bay Area-based Taube Philanthropies, making it the
largest single monetary gift to acquire art in campus history.

The Szyk collection — much of which has never been on public view — includes
450 paintings, drawings and sketches, plus a vast trove of documentary material,
such as his diaries, books and magazines that featured his work, financial
records and commissions.

“Arthur Szyk’s unique contributions to contemporary art and political
illustration have not yet been recognized to the extent his work deserves,” Tad
Taube, chairman of Taube Philanthropies, said in a Monday morning news
release. Taube’s parents had befriended Szyk in the 1940s when the artist arrived
in the U.S.

“With our shared Polish Jewish heritage, and a relationship my parents
developed with Szyk … it is significant to me to ensure that Szyk’s remarkable
works are available to today’s and future generations,” Taube says.
Much of Szyk’s art is said to be stylistically reminiscent of medieval and
Renaissance traditions, with many of his works reflecting the social and political
unease that gripped the world during his lifetime. A harsh critic of Hitler and
Nazi totalitarianism, a number of his most famous pieces portray what Szyk
called the “madness” of his times.

“Arthur Szyk operated simultaneously in many countries, cultures, and
languages, and he was a refugee for a good part of his life,” Magnes curator
Francesco Spagnolo says. “The Magnes is committed to exploring and
documenting the cultures of Jews in the global diaspora, and this collection
furthers that goal. Our curatorial task … is to thoroughly examine every aspect
of Szyk’s work and place it in proper context.”

A portion of the collection will be on loan to the New York Historical Society for
a show in September. Locally, the first major exhibition will likely be in 2018.

Tags: Arts, UC Berkeley

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