Yad Vashem’s collection of Holocaust art is the largest and most wide-ranging collection in the world. It comprises some 10,000 works, most of them from the Holocaust period. In order to properly display this collection, focusing only on the works created during the Shoah, a new Holocaust Art Museum has been built through the generous support of Miri and Sheldon Adelson (USA). The art displayed in the new Museum allows a different view of the Holocaust — based on the experience of the individual — using a medium that appeals not just to the intellect, but also penetrates straight to the heart.
On entering the Museum, the visitor will encounter a diagonal wall displaying a range of works from different artists. The rest of the spaces are dedicated to exhibits according to subject, focusing on the human image as well as views of ghettos and camps, inside and outside. In addition, three artists have areas dedicated solely to their works: Charlotte Salomon and Carol Deutsch. Adjacent to the exhibition hall is the worlds’ first computerized archive and information center regarding Shoah art and artists. The center is meant for the occasional visitor who wishes to learn more about a particular artist viewed in the exhibit, as well as for researchers wishing to utilize the information for their academic work.
Creating art during the Holocaust meant risking one’s life at a time when the materials needed were almost non-existent, and many of the artists were on the verge of collapse — physically and mentally — without access to even the most minimal essentials of daily life. In spite of all this, the piece was created, and sometimes managed to survive even when — as was mostly the case — the artist did not.
Most of the works were fashioned on thin scraps of paper, which demand care and periodical rotation, so as to best ensure their preservation. The Museum’s display will therefore be changed every few months so that the works can “rest” in optimal dark conditions. This rotation will also allow the display of more pieces from the collection.
There is no doubt that the visitor’s experience will be unique, both in terms of the subject matter and from an artistic viewpoint. The works displayed are not just testimonial; they express an awesome creative power. The artists who produced them knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to express all they wished to say in a few lines etched on paper.