Turning 50 is a big event, especially if you are a museum! The Israel Museum, Jerusalem was founded in 1965, and will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of events and exhibitions reflecting the institution’s cultural role, extensive collections, historical vantage point, and enthusiastic embrace of the future.

Today – five years after its spectacular renovation, which enhanced the museum space and experience, while remaining true to the original design and vision – the museum is a cultural hub, drawing between 750,000 and one million visitors each year, according to museum director James Snyder. Snyder, who has been with the museum since 1997, recalled his first experience of the museum: “I landed here from another planet. [Snyder was Deputy Director of the Museum of Modern Art, 1986 – 1996]  I’d heard about this place, I’d never seen it, but as I walked up the promenade for the first time… I realized this was one of the few places anywhere where the combination of site, setting, landscape, architecture, and breadth of collections gave you all of the ingredients to radiate from one space in a museum setting, a universal cultural spirit that really existed nowhere else.”

Ido Michaeli, Israeli, born 1980, Bank Hapoalim Carpet, 2013, Handwoven wool and silk, 250 x 320 cm; Purchase, “Here & Now” Contemporary Israeli Art Acquisitions Committee, IsraelIdo Michaeli, Israeli, born 1980, Bank Hapoalim Carpet, 2013, Handwoven wool and silk, 250 x 320 cm; Purchase, “Here & Now” Contemporary Israeli Art Acquisitions Committee, Israel

This vision finds its expression in the plans for celebrating the museum’s 50th anniversary, with exhibitions that range from the very intimate and individualistic, to those that reach out into the realm of collective global consciousness. Kicking off the anniversary year is the exhibit 6 Artists/6 Projects, presenting new works by contemporary Israeli artists. Standing on the cutting edge of the present, this choice reaches out into the future, perhaps envisioning a time when these young artists will be considered Israeli classics. For now, a walk through the gallery presents the visitor with the diverse range of practices and approaches to art of these six very different individuals. Participating artists: Uri Gershuni, Roi Kupper, Dana Levy, Tamir Lichtenberg, Ido Michaeli, and Gilad Ratman.

Relating more directly to the jubilee year is the exhibit 1965 Today, which will open on March 31, 2015, exploring the visual culture of Israel at the time of the museum’s founding. A companion exhibit will be Dan Reisinger: Graphic Design in Israel, a retrospective featuring over 200 works, including posters, corporate logos, environmental designs and calendars with Reisinger’s signature bold colors and composition.

“The year begins in a seminal way,” said Snyder, “thinking about 1965, the fifty years from then until now, and the fifty years before 1965 leading up to our opening moment. So in a way, it’s going to be 50 years but looking at 100 years. It’s going to be about the aesthetics of the time of the founding of the museum, resonating with visual culture today and looking back to the foundational sources of modern Israel’s visual vocabulary.”

Moving from the local to the universal narrative, the exhibit A Brief History of Humankind will open on May 1, 2015, with 12 seminal objects from the museum’s collections that represent milestones in human history, from evidence of communal fire to Albert Einstein’s original manuscript for the special theory of relativity.

Twilight Over Berlin: 50 Masterworks from the Neue Nationalgalerie, 1905 – 1945 will open on October 20, 2015, with works by avant-garde artists of the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition also marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. Featuring the works of artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Beckman, Otto Dix, and George Grosz, it offers insight into the visual and cultural influences on the artists who came to Israel from Europe at that time.

It’s going to be a great year!

6 Artists/6 Projects will be on view through August 29, 2015

Israel Museum, Jerusalem website