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The Jewish Museum Presents First Henry J. Leir Prize Awarded to Honor Outstanding Work of Art
Allan Wexler (American, b. 1949), Gardening Sukkah, 2000, wood, gardening implements, eating utensils. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- In conjunction with its new exhibition, Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life, The Jewish Museum has presented - for the first time - the Henry J. Leir Prize to recognize an outstanding work of art in the show. A three-member jury determined the winner of the Leir Prize, Allan Wexler’s Gardening Sukkah. The three judges were architect and designer Daniel Libeskind; Holly Hotchner, Director of the Museum of Arts and Design; and Rabbi Darcie Crystal, Coordinator of Leadership Initiatives at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.

The winning work reinvents Jewish rituals and ritual objects through a creative use of materials; a new conceptual framework; and repurposing the secular into sacred. The winner of the Leir Prize was announced at an evening event at The Jewish Museum celebrating the Reinventing Ritual exhibition on Monday, September 14, 2009. The $5,000 prize was awarded in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Leir Charitable Foundation’s singular role in energizing the Museum’s collecting, exhibiting, and commissioning of contemporary art and design about Jewish ritual.

The jury praised Gardening Sukka’’s year-round functionality, “green” sensibility, way of raising the issue of what a sukkah is, craftsmanship, and throughfulness, in its fulfillment of prize criteria that the winner best “reinvents ritual.” The judges also selected two honorable mentions: Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow’s =/- Hotplate and Hadassa Goldvicht’s video Reading Lesson #1.

The Leir Prize recognizes work that most fully embodies the finest of contemporary art and design, and best expresses the dynamic, ever-evolving practice of religion today. It represents the culmination of a vision - to show the public the number, range, and quality of artists who are drawn to rejuvenate centuries-old Jewish rituals in bold, experimental ways.

Artists and designers' rising interest in ritual since the 1990s inspires Reinventing Ritual, the first international exhibition to survey this phenomenon. On view at The Jewish Museum from September 13, 2009 through February 7, 2010, the exhibition features nearly sixty innovative works, created between 1999 and 2000 in diverse media by 58 artists. Visitors can see outstanding examples of industrial design, architecture, installation art, video, drawing, metalwork, jewelry, sculpture, ceramics, comics, and textiles, revealing the intersections of creative freedom and Jewish life.

The Jewish Museum | Daniel Libeskind | Holly Hotchner | Museum of Arts and Design | Rabbi Darcie Crystal | Henry J. Leir |

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