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In 1980, Andy Warhol memorialized luminaries of modern Jewish culture: Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Franz Kafka, the Marx Brothers, Golda Meir, and Gertrude Stein. Warhol depicted these thinkers, politicians, performers, and writers in his signature pop-art fashion, splashed with color and shapes, blurring of boundaries between art and commerce.
The idea for the controversial series came from art dealer Ronald Feldman, who together with Susan Morgenstein of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, came up with the list of names. The series was warmly received by Jewish audiences despite negative reviews from art critics who considered the works exploitative. Hilton Kramer of The New York Times wrote, “The way it exploits its Jewish subjects without showing the slightest grasp of their significance is offensive—or would be, anyway, if the artist had not already treated so many non-Jewish subjects in the same tawdry manner.”
Today, as we think about Jewish identity through a multi-cultural, twenty-first-century lens, do these Jews represent us? Who does? See this series and other highlights from the Spertus collection as we explore Jews in art.