The Shabbat Room An installation by Maya Zack

The permanent installation The Shabbat Room by Maya Zack, born in Israel in 1976, offers a link between the first Jewish Museum and the present one. Through her artistic research, she revives the early twentieth-century Gute Stube by the artist Isidor Kaufmann. This installation, which was central to the museum, was the fruit of Kaufmann’s search for a more authentic Judaism and was intended to remind the Jews of the time of their origins. It took the artist from Vienna to the north-eastern crown lands. The installation offered the Jews of Vienna a place where they could reflect on family life during their own childhood or that of their parents. It was destroyed in 1938 when the first Jewish Museum was shut down.

Maya Zack’s The Shabbat Room re-interprets this no longer existing room. In this journey back-through-time, Zack retraces the path of Kaufmann’s work, its wandering and its ultimate fate, and she also reveals the Gute Stube's origins in Kaufmann's studio and in his paintings, as well as the mystical roots of Shabbat with which it was imbued.

The artistic medium chosen by her is a computer-generated visualization suggesting a new room—designed as a contemporary tribute to a core project within the old Jewish Museum. It is based on photographs and also the few surviving objects from the original Gute Stube, which were confiscated in 1938 and dispersed among various  museums in Vienna. After 1945 they were returned to the Jewish Community, which gave them to the Jewish Museum Vienna in 1992 on permanent loan.

The Shabbat Room is an integral component of the new permanent exhibition Our City! Jewish Vienna Then to Now and is located between the sections The City of Immigrants and Vienna 1900.


The Catalogue

The catalogue about the installation offers a multifaceted insight into this complex artistic project. The installation itself is shown on a four-page fold-out and also in numerous detailed illustrations. The essays discuss the work of Zack and Kaufmann and the cultural and historical background. Werner Hanak-Lettner looks at the journeys by Kaufmann and Zack through Europe and describes the artistic research that led to the permanent installations for the two Jewish museums. Danielle Spera asked Maya Zack about her confrontation with Kaufmann’s work and his Gute Stube and about her research and the reason for creating The Shabbat Room. Klaus S. Davidowicz offers a portrait of Isidor Kaufmann and the developments within the Jewish community before and after 1900. Ruth Kara-Ivanov Kaniel focuses on the picture Shabbat Room 4, The Mystical Shabbat and looks at the Kabbalistic and feminist components in this work in particular and in the Shabbat celebration in general. Finally, Christof Habres, who introduced Maya Zack to the Jewish Museum Vienna, offers an insight in Zack’s artistic style and approach. The book was designed by Stefan Fuhrer in cooperation with Maya Zack.