The city centre of Jerusalem is home to some of Israel’s most celebrated galleries and museums, where world-famous works of art are on permanent display and exhibitions are continually taking place.
Jerusalem is steeped in history and tradition, yet its population is as multicultural as you will find in any global city. Culture plays a significant role in Jerusalem’s heritage, as proven by the its thriving art scene.
Anyone with even a mild interest in art should make The Israel Museum their first port of call when visiting Jerusalem. The Israel Museum is situated in the Givat Ram neighbourhood of Jerusalem, within walking distance from the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), the Supreme Court and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. By far the country’s most significant cultural institution, The Israel Museum covers an area of more than 18,500 square metres (199,150 square feet) of which the majority is devoted to gallery space. The Israel Museum displays one of the most extensive collections of art, archaeological findings and Judaica in the Middle East. Opened in 1965, the museum underwent a major three-year renovation before reopening to the public in the summer of 2010. The museum’s Fine Arts Wing covers 2,200 square metres (23,680 square feet) of permanent displays of art from around the globe, especially Israeli and European. Also worth a visit is the specific section dedicated to contemporary art. The Israel Museum’s Billy Rose Art Garden is a permanent showcase of Western sculpture. On display are the works of many of the world’s most famous sculptors, among them Jacques Lipchitz, Claes Oldenburg and Auguste Rodin.
For those more interested in local art initiatives, plan a visit to the artists’ quarter (Hutzot Hayotzer). Meet creatives in their own studios and galleries, and take the opportunity to add some unique Israeli art to your collection by negotiating directly with the seller. The buildings that house Hutzot Hayotzer were constructed in the 1930s and reflect the Arabic architectural style of that period common throughout the city. Following the 1948 war, this part of Jerusalem lay derelict until 1967. Over the years, the compound has undergone major renovations since being designated as an arts district. Although the Hutzot Hayotzer is worthy of a visit all year round, August hosts the internationally renowned arts and crafts fair, one of the most popular events of the year in Jerusalem. Artists from around the country come to represent the best of Israeli culture and display their work, which can include ceramics, decorative weaving, embroidery, sculptures, paintings, hand drawings, photographs and metalwork.
The Jerusalem House of Quality is an independent gallery that has been promoting the work of the city’s contemporary artists for more than half a century. The gallery presents small exhibitions, each displaying unique creations crafted in glassware, ceramics and copper, among other materials. The art produced in Jerusalem House of Quality ranges from jewellery and contemporary Judaica to mosaic art. As well as organising rotating exhibitions, the gallery is also a popular venue for cultural and music events as well as lectures, when visitors can engage with the city’s arts and crafts communities while enjoying the stunning panoramic views of the Old City and the Yemin Moshe neighbourhood from the gallery’s rooftop terrace.
Art Time Gallery, which is located in the heart of Jerusalem on Shlomzion Hamalka Street, specialises in pop art. Every artist exhibiting here is encouraged to experiment with their art, which is characterised by innovative techniques and original materials. Their talents are propagated using bright, vibrant colour palettes and incorporating artistic 3D methods. The gallery is managed by Zion Ezri, a second-generation art collector, with rich experience in Israeli art and a true expert in his field. The gallery displays only work by renowned Israeli artists, but the diversity of styles appeals to a very broad sector of collectors, interior designers and pop art lovers.
This museum, which opened in 1974, houses one of the most important collections of Islamic art in the world. Only a quarter of the museum’s 4,000 artistic treasures, which date from the 7th century to the 19th century, are displayed, and this includes pottery, metal and glass for day-to-day use, as well as luxury items, such as jewellery, ornaments, miniatures and rugs. The brainchild of Vera Bryce Salomons, a member of an aristocratic Anglo-Jewish family, the museum was created to preserve Islamic art and archaeological artefacts while promoting religious tolerance and strengthening coexistence between Arabs and Jews in an often troubled region.
The Mamuta Project at the Mamuta Art Research Center was established in 2009 by the Sela-Manca group of independent Jerusalem-based artists. The overriding goal of the project is to advance art in all of its formats and provide a framework for artists, architects and designers who want to work together in the spirit of cooperation, dialogue and technological innovation. The management team at the Mamuta Centre describes the gallery as “a centre for artistic creation and display of art”, which is made up of a number of artists’ workspaces. Each workspace is devoted to a different form of visual art, including electronics, sound and video, but also more traditional forms of art. The Mamuta Centre is located in a well-known Jerusalem landmark, Hansen House, a tall and imposing building situated in the Talbiya neighbourhood and very close to the Jerusalem Theatre.
Despite being situated in the very heart of Jerusalem’s bustling city centre, this museum is a little-known gem. Dedicated to the preservation of art relating to Jewish life in Italy over the better part of the past century, the Umberto Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art hosts a number of temporary exhibitions on topics related to Italian Jewry. The museum’s permanent exhibit, titled Made in Italy: The Material Side of Spiritual Objects, displays the materials and techniques used by Jewish artisans to create the ornate metalwork, textiles and carved wooden furniture that typifies Italian art of the 20th century. Particularly outstanding is the colourful display of hand-decorated parchments that takes up the entire fourth floor of the museum.