Museum to expand, hosts Purim party

ncma_menorahThe North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA), 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, N.C., announced that it will be expanding its Judaic Art Gallery, one of only two galleries devoted to Judaica in an American art museum. The gallery will close the week of Feb. 9 and reopen in June in an expanded space with new display cases and a larger selection of beautiful objects.

The idea of the project began last year with the curator’s wish to make some minor adjustments to the gallery installation. “All I was really looking for were a few tweaks,” recalled John Coffey, the Museum’s deputy director for art and curator in charge of the Judaic Art Gallery. But Chief Exhibition Designer Eric Gaard had another idea. Rather than just tweak the present installation, Gaard suggested a far more ambitious remake of the gallery, in answer to the steady growth in the Museum’s Judaic art collection. He proposed not only expanding the gallery into an adjacent space, but also replacing five of the Plexiglas display cases with larger, state-of-the-art glass cases. “I had envisioned these changes for the future,” said Coffey, “but I did not expect the future so soon!” Working with the Friends of the Judaic Art Gallery, Coffey and the Museum’s development staff secured the necessary funding for this project. A lead gift from the family of Michael and Lisa Sandman of Raleigh and contributions from the Friends of the Judaic Art Gallery, allowed for the project to move forward quickly.

During this time the gallery undergoes renovations, it will expand to 1,728 square feet — a 50 percent increase over the existing gallery. Decorative screens will divide the expanded space into three program sections: highlights of the Judaic art collection; objects related to the synagogue and the Torah; and objects related to Sabbath and festivals, the Jewish home, and the Jewish life cycle.

Because the gallery is expanding to accommodate future growth, in the short-term the new space will be too large for the existing Judaic art collection. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Coffey has arranged with the Jewish Museum in New York to borrow 12 Judaic objects from its encyclopedic collection. These loans will serve as placeholders for future acquisitions. And down the road, the Museum hopes to borrow Judaic treasures from the Israel Museum and other major collections, public and private.

“This represents a titanic leap forward for us,” says NCMA Director Lawrence J. Wheeler. “Finally, we will have a Judaic Art Gallery the size of our ambitions.”

In other news, The Friends of the Judaic Art Gallery will host an “I [heart] Purim Woks & Lox” event on Feb. 28, 7 p.m., in the West Building.

Enjoy dim sum-styled hors d’oeuvres, drinks, music, dancing and fun. This year the event coincides with the Chinese New Year. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks, costumes and other festive attire.

Cost is $65 per person plus tax. Advanced reservations are required due to limited space.

For those who want more, stay for the “I [heart] Purim After-Party,” which begins at 9:30 p.m. The museum especially invites young professionals to enjoy the high-energy event, complete with dancing, desserts, and drinks.
Cost is $25 per person until Feb. 22 and $35 afterward.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 919.715.5923.

About the image: Eastern European, probably Galicia (present-day Poland or Ukraine), Standing Hanukkah Lamp for a Synagogue, 18th century (dedicated 1770/71) with some 19th-century elements, copper alloy: cast, machine-turned, engraved, punched, partly gilded (eagle), H. 60 in., Gift of Thomas G. and Louise J. Coffey in memory of H. Arthur Sandman, 2013 (2013.4).