In a New Exhibit, the Jewish Museum Avoids the Word Jew

September 1, 2021 | Menachem Wecker
About the author: Menachem Wecker, a freelance journalist based in Washington DC, covers art, culture, religion, and education for a variety of publications.

During a recent visit to New York City’s Jewish Museum, Menachem Wecker noticed something odd about an art exhibit titled Louise Bourgeois, Freud’s Daughter:

I viewed every artwork and read each label, . . . without learning whether the artist was born, or identified as, Jewish. Given that “Jewish” appears in the museum name, I continue to find this shocking. Would the Air Force Museum remain mum on whether the subject of a massive exhibit ever flew a plane?

Known for her mammoth, arachnoid sculptures, Bourgeois (1911-2010) was also not Sigmund Freud’s daughter—despite the exhibit title. The latter, incidentally, was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud, but the Jewish Museum also neglects sharing his Jewishness with viewers.

As I navigated the show in the museum’s second floor galleries, I allowed for the possibility I missed a hint about Bourgeois’s faith. Quite a bit of sleuthing prior to the show had turned up empty, so I asked a guard if the exhibit shared anywhere whether Bourgeois was Jewish. “Oh no,” he informed me definitively. “It wouldn’t tell you that.”

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