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Allan Wexler has been awarded the Henry J. Leir Prize for his work, Gardening Sukkah. The Henry J. Leir Prize recognizes work that embodies the finest of contemporary art and design, and best expresses the dynamic, ever-evolving practice of religion today. Administered by The Jewish Museum, the Leir Prize 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.

Selected from nearly sixty artists featured in Reinventing Ritual, Wexler was awarded the $5,000 prize for his reinvention of Jewish rituals and ritual objects through a creative use of materials; a new conceptual framework; and repurposing the secular into sacred. The jury praised Gardening Sukkah’s year-round functionality, “green” sensibility, way of raising the issue of what a sukkah is, craftsmanship, and thoughtfulness, 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.

Coordinator of Leadership Initiatives at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of ReligionRabbi Darcie Crystal
Director of the Museum of Arts and DesignHolly Hotchner
Architect and DesignerDaniel Libeskind

The Henry J. Leir Prize is granted in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Leir Charitable Foundations’ singular role in energizing the Museum’s collecting, exhibiting, and commissioning of contemporary art and design about Jewish ritual.


Allan Wexler (American, b. 1949)
Gardening Sukkah, 2000
Wood, wheels, gardening implements, eating utensils, and ritual objects
108 x 108 x 120 in. (274.3 x 274.3 x 304.8 cm)
Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

"Gardening Sukkah unites the Jewish harvest celebration and the activity of gardening. The sukkah is a ritualistic house erected at harvest time to celebrate the bounty and give thanks. For seven days Gardening Sukkah shelters the family as they gather for Sukkot meals. For the remaining 358 days it functions as an outbuilding for gardening activities and storage."
—Allan Wexler


Honorable Mention
Ami Drach (Israeli, b. 1963) and Dov Ganchrow (Israeli, b. United States 1970)
+/- Hotplate, 2003
Readymade plate, silk-screened conductive print, and ABS connector housing
3/4 x 9 in. diameter (2 x 23 cm)
Courtesy of the artists, Tel Aviv

"This conceptual mock-up uses the conductive properties of silk-screened gold, or amorphic metal films printed in the same manner, as for use in circuit boards and car windshield defrosters. Hook up the plate to an electrical source, and the current will run through the 'decoration,' thereby keeping foodstuffs warm. A graphic connection becomes evident as the electric wire-letter welding paints mimic the quill typography in the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Thus, ornate graphic patterns are bestowed 'function' in the most modernist sense of the word."
—Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow


Honorable Mention
Hadassa Goldvicht (Israeli, b. 1981)
Writing Lesson #1, 2005
DVD, 1 min., 56 sec.
Courtesy of the artist, Jerusalem

"Writing Lesson #1 is one of a series of videos that revolve around a primal introduction to literacy. This performance is based on the Hasidic ceremony in which a Jewish boy at age three is taken to school for the first time and is asked to lick honey off the Hebrew alphabet so that his first experience of the language will be sweet. This work is an attempt to create a distilled image of the body as it yearns for the divine in its initial form-the alphabet. Re-creating this ceremony, as a woman and as an adult, holds a built-in failure to reach this unattainable divine."
—Hadassa Goldvicht

September 14, 2009