Forgotten Women Artists

An Appeal for Recognition and Dignity

“We used to throw stones at her – we thought she was a witch.” With these words, a former resident of Rishon LeZion ruefully told me of her childhood encounters with the sculptor and doll maker, Edith Samuel. Edith wore her long, dark, European skirts under the searing Middle Eastern sun and suffered from a physical deformity. The daughter of a liberal German rabbi, Edith and her sister Eva were both artists who left their home city of Essen in the 1930s and immigrated to Palestine.

photo of a pottery wheel and other equipment

The pottery wheel belonging to Paula Ahronson, Eva Samuel’s business partner, is preserved in private hands and untouched since her death in 1998
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Michal Friedlander

The Samuel sisters worked long hours, struggled to earn a living and did not gain the recognition that they deserved, during their lifetimes. The exhibition “Tonalities” at the Jewish Museum Berlin aims to bring forgotten women artists back into the public arena. It presents Eva Samuel’s works and that of other women ceramicists who were forced to leave Germany after 1933.

My search for transplanted German, Jewish women in the applied arts began many years prior to my encounter with the Samuel sisters. It was Emmy Roth who first captured my attention. Born in 1885, Roth was an exceptionally talented and internationally successful silversmith, who worked in Berlin. She immigrated to Palestine and fell into obscurity, ultimately taking her own life in 1942. Her male refugee colleagues, Ludwig Wolpert and David Gumbel, were appointed to teach metalwork at the Jerusalem New Bezalel School of Art in the late 1930s. They are feted in Israel today, whereas Roth is still completely unknown there.  continue reading


A Letter from the Museum

An Interview with Alex Martinis Roe

Artist sitting at a desk in an nearly empty room

Alex Martinis Roe, Encounters: Conversation in Practice, performance still, 2010.
Image courtesy of the artist.

To obtain a letter from a vending machine – even from an art vending machine – is rather unusual. In this interview, Australian artist Alex Martinis Roe explains what motivated her to create the artwork “A Letters to Deutsche Post.”

Christiane Bauer: Alex, you drafted a letter to Deutsche Post, asking the officers to reissue stamps depicting Rahel Varnhagen and Hannah Arendt. When our visitors purchase the letter, are they supposed to send it to Deutsche Post?

Alex Martinis Roe: I don’t expect visitors to send the letter to Deutsche Post, because I didn’t ask them to. They can do whatever they like with it. If they send it off, I’m happy. If they keep it, I’m also happy. (laughs) What I hope, is that they read the letter and become interested in the story.

Why did you choose to make a letter for the art vending machine?  continue reading


Art, Trash, and One-Way Realism

A Conversation with Andrei Krioukov

Crushed Coca-cola cans with Hebrew and Arabic letters

Artistically-treated Coca-cola cans
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

As a contribution to our art vending machine, Andrei Krioukov treated and crushed Coca-Cola cans with Hebrew and Arabic labels. I met him and his wife Rita at their art school on Immanuelkirchstraße in Berlin. This is where Andrei teaches international students, who both study and take their state-recognized exams with him.

In our discussion Andrei talks about his fascination with the design of the famous cans and explains the elements of both trash and art they represent.

Christiane Bauer: Andrei, what fascinates you about the Coca-Cola can?

Andrei Krioukov: These cans are typical of our lives today. You can find them everywhere, but hardly anyone notices them. For me, the discrepancy between art and trash is an exciting subject: if a can is lying on the street, it’s trash. But if I pick it up and contemplate it, and I ponder what I can do with it, it turns into art.
An artist from the 19th century could paint garlic, an onion, or a pitcher of water. Today our lives are full of Coca-Cola cans.

The pitcher appeared in still life paintings as an object from everyday life. What significance does the can have? Do you see a can of Coke as a disposable article or as a modern cultural artifact?   continue reading