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Inside a Synagogue, Kiki Smith's Art Gets a New Dimension

  • Kiki Smith at exhibition opening. Neil Lawner
  • Detail from Present, 2015, Photo by Jolene Siana
  • Present, 2015, Photo by Jolene Siana
  • Women's Gallery by Peter Aaron
  • Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans stained glass window, 2010, Photo by Jolene Siana
July 25, 2018
Andreja Velimirović is a passionate content writer with a knack for art and old movies. Majoring in art history, he is an expert on avant-garde modern movements and medieval church fresco decorations. Feel free to contact him via his Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreja-velimirovi%C4%87-74068a68/

A few months back, the Museum at Eldridge Street opened an unusual exhibition worthy of the location’s unique setting and history.

Titled Below the Horizon, this ongoing show features fifty works of art by Kiki Smith. Ranging from sculpture to painting to photography, Smith’s distinctive artwork cover all three floors of the historic museum, creating a unique sense that would be really hard to imitate anywhere else.

In many ways, Below the Horizon represents the artist’s consideration of the Museum at Eldridge Street through her favorite themes – mortality, spirituality, society, the body, nature and the mind.

Detail from Welcome, 2015, Photo by Jolene Siana
Kiki Smith – Detail from Welcome, 2015. Photo by Jolene Siana

Below the Horizon

Kiki Smith’s artistic touch became a vital element of the Museum back in 2010, when the stained-glass window she designed with architect Deborah Gans was finally installed. This window consummated a 20-year, $20 million restoration project by the National Historic Landmark, and stands as a strong symbol of rebirth for the history-rich building.

Returning to the Eldridge Street after seven years of absence, Kiki Smith filled the building with her work in varying mediums, carefully placing pieces in a way they both react to and work with the space around them.

Detail from Blue Moon II, 2011, Photo by Jolene Siana
Kiki Smith – Detail from Blue Moon II, 2011, Photo by Jolene Siana

Presenting Art in a Synagogue

The Museum at Eldridge Street is housed within the Eldridge Street Synagogue, a magnificent National Historic Landmark. Initially opened in 1887, the synagogue is the first great house of worship built in the United States by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Today, this museum is the only remaining marker of the great wave of Jewish migration to the Lower East Side that is still open to the public.

With such a background, displaying works of art here has a very distinct feeling to it, something Kiki Smith was very well aware of. Each piece presented in Below the Horizon was personally chosen by the artist for the exact location where it is displayed.

Interestingly, this exhibition marks the first time since the restoration that an art exhibition has extended beyond the confines of the gallery space. Some of the pieces featured in Below the Horizon have made their way into the historic sanctuary and balcony of the building, something Museum Board Chair Michael Weinstein felt was a huge step forward:

This exhibition represents such an exciting new moment in this building’s life. We’re proud to continue reimagining and reinventing what the word landmark can mean.

Homecoming, 2011, Photo by Jolene Siana
Kiki Smith – Homecoming, 2011, Photo by Jolene Siana

Kiki Smith Art Exhibition at the Eldridge Street Museum

Below the Horizon opened its doors for viewers on April 11, with Kiki Smith and exhibition curators in attendance.

Although more than three months have passed since then, the exhibition will be on view until October 10, 2018, at Museum at Eldridge Street in New York City, so make sure to make the most out of the opportunity to see it.

Featured images: Kiki Smith at exhibition opening, Photo by Neil Lawner; Kiki Smith – Detail from Present, 2015, Photo by Jolene Siana; Present, 2015, Photo by Jolene Siana; Women’s Gallery, Photo by Peter Aaron. All images courtesy of Museum at Eldridge Street.