From 29 March to 25 August 2019, Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter is immersed in the esoteric ambience of a major exhibition about the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah. Different aspects of its ancient teachings are presented – even pop stars like Madonna and David Bowie have drawn inspiration. This is the first exhibition to showcase the many sides of Kabbalah in surprising combinations of historical objects and modern works of art.
The term Kabbalah was coined in the Middle Ages to encompass the centuries of scholarship through which Jewish mystics have sought to understand the mysteries of our existence in the world. Kabbalah means ‘receiving’. It is founded on a belief in an ‘original knowledge’ about God, Creation and humanity. In the twentieth century, Kabbalah began to reach a far wider audience, inspiring artists, writers, filmmakers and contemporary pop icons, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
Many people who have heard of Kabbalah are unaware what this mystical Jewish tradition is really about. Spread across all the Jewish Cultural Quarter locations, Kabbalah: The Art of Jewish Mysticism is a show that attempts to rectify that. The main presentation in the Jewish Historical Museum introduces Kabbalah with displays of ancient texts alongside work by modern and contemporary artists. The exhibition starts in a kind of decompression chamber in which visitors are transported from the familiar everyday world into the mysterious realm of Kabbalah. Works by artists such as Barnett Newman, R.B. Kitaj, Marc Chagall and Anselm Kiefer reveal how they were inspired by Kabbalah.