Fenimore Art Museum Presents Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, a Major Traveling Exhibition

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y., April 1, 2008—The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, is pleased to present Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, a major exhibition organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York, that tells the story of a little-known aspect of American carousel history and its connection to Jewish visual culture. The exhibition will be on view May 24 through September 1, 2008 at the Fenimore Art Museum.

The exhibition traces, for the first time, the journey of Jewish woodcarvers and papercut artists from Eastern and Central Europe to America. Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses highlights the unsung role these artisans played in establishing a distinct Jewish culture in communities throughout the United States and provides a surprising revelation of the link that was forged between the immigrant Jewish woodcarvers and the American carousel industry. Many of the artisans who arrived in America between the 1880s and 1920s carved for their local synagogues; some also found work creating horses and other animals for the flourishing carousel industry. Inspired by the memory of symbolic references carved into majestic Torah arks and gravestones and cut into paper, they translated these motifs into an American idiom, elevating carousel art into a powerful sculptural expression of dynamic and animated forms.

The exhibition brings together extraordinary examples of majestic synagogue carvings—gilded lions, Decalogues, crowns and eagles as well as intricate papercuts—juxtaposed against dynamic carousel figures created for the great amusement parks of Coney Island and elsewhere. Featuring more than 100 artworks, drawn from private and public collections in the United States, Eastern Europe and Israel, the exhibition tells the story of this fascinating aspect of Jewish and American visual culture.

Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses was organized by Murray Zimiles, guest curator, and coordinated by Stacy C. Hollander, senior curator and director of exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum.

Guest Curator Murray Zimiles is the author of the fully illustrated 192-page companion book, Gilded Lions And Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, co-published by the American Folk Art Museum with Brandeis University Press, an imprint of the University Press of New England. Zimiles is an artist and Kempner Distinguished Professor at SUNY Purchase, where he has taught drawing and printmaking since 1977. In addition, please visit the exhibition website at gildedlions.org, which was conceptualized by George Blumenthal and funded by The Center for Online Judaic Studies, Inc.

Major support for the exhibition and accompanying book was provided by Michael Steinhardt; Kekst and Company; the David Berg Foundation; the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation; the Smart Family Foundation; the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, Allentown, Pennsylvania; the Betty and John A. Levin Fund; the Robert Lehman Foundation; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Fenimore Art Museum
One of the nation’s premier art institutions, the Fenimore Art Museum is home to an exceptionally rich collection of American folk art and American Indian art as well as important holdings in American decorative arts, photography, and twentieth-century art. Founded in 1945 in Cooperstown, New York, the museum is part of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA), founded in 1899. The museum’s renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection, housed in the American Indian Wing, is a masterpiece collection of more than 800 art objects, representing a broad scope of North American cultures. The collections of folk and American art include seminal works by Grandma Moses, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, William Sidney Mount, and Benjamin West. The museum offers a range of interactive educational programming for children, families, and adults, including lectures and workshops for museum visitors and distance learning instruction for classrooms nationwide. The museum further explores and examines our cultural history by organizing and hosting nationally touring art and history exhibitions, including Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation; Treasures from Olana: The Landscapes of Frederic Edwin Church; A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr.; and Ralph Fasanella’s America.

The Fenimore Art Museum is located on 5798 State Hwy. 80, Lake Road, in Cooperstown. The museum’s Fenimore Café, overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, features wonderful views and a tranquil setting amid the terraced gardens. The Museum Shop offers fine jewelry, art reproductions, and a wide selection of publications on folk art, history, and Native American art. Museum admission is $11 for adults, $9.50 for visitors age 65 and over, and $5 for children age 7 to 12; children 6 and under and NYSHA members are admitted free. Reduced price combination admission tickets that include The Farmers’ Museum and The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are also available. The museum is open from April 1 through December 31; closed January through March, except for special events and school groups. For museum hours or general information, please call 1-888-547-1450 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.


For more information and images, please contact:
Christine Liggio/Public Relations Office
Fenimore Art Museum/ New York State Historical Association
Phone: (607) 547-1472/E-mail: c.liggio@nysha.org

Press Release Category: 
Exhibition Press Releases
Publication Date: 
March 2008