Castel Museum, Maale Adumim
Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 13, 2011
On Yom Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) we finally visited the Moshe Castel Museum. Although the museum has been open for a couple years, it’s one of those cases where we’ve been putting it off because it’s almost in our backyard. The museum is located in Maale Adumim with a spectacular view of Jerusalem and the Judaean hills. Because it faces west, I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the building during our morning visit. After our mandatory “mangal” (barbecue) I hiked back up the hill with a wide angle lens to photograph the building lit by the setting sun.
This photo of the view through the windows was taken from the upper floor in the atrium. Photography without flash is permitted in the museum. Hours and prices are posted on the Castel Museum site.
Moshe Castel (1909-1991) was an Israeli painter and sculptor. Born in Jerusalem, he grew up in the Bukharim neighbourhood, studied at the Ecole de Louvre in Paris as a young man, and produced paintings and sculptures in a wide range of styles. The European influence is evident in his early paintings (1930s and 40s) of Sephardic Jews.
In the 1950s he began experimenting with a sculptural style in his paintings, by mixing ground basalt (apparently inspired by a visit to the ruined synagogue at Korazin) with sand and glue to form a relief. The museum’s atrium is dominated by a large piece, “Priests at the Wailing Wall” (1991) in this technique:
The museum is surprisingly large, built on a square floor plan. Most of the ground floor is an archive, not open to the public. A gift shop with reproductions is located on the left side of the atrium. Cafe Castel, which is quite a good cafe, is on the right, with an entrance from the street. Note to Maale Adumim residents: the cafe is open all day and in the evening, serves decent food and is a lot quieter than Aroma in the mall. Prices are about the same. I have no idea how they manage to serve quiches and salads when they don’t appear to have any kitchen space.
On the second floor, the atrium and three large galleries surround an open courtyard, with two small study rooms in the front corners. The building was designed by Israeli architect David Reznik on the site chosen by Moshe and Bilhah Castel in 1981. (I saw Bilhah in the corridor; she was fed up with being photographed by a tour group, so I don’t have any photos of her.) The museum opened in 2009.
“Holy Ark at Sefat” (1943) shows the romantic European influence, combined with the rich saturated colours that are prominent in his later work:
Study room with Castel’s drawings, largely studies of Mediterranean themes and symbols:
Tours can be booked in advance in Hebrew, English, and Russian (extra 30 NIS, in addition to the 36 NIS entrance fee). An English language tour guide describes the “Eternal Menorah” painting. The building is wheelchair accessible and most pieces are hung at a low height, particularly the drawings.
“Eternal Menorah” (1973), paint and basalt:
“Flying Letters” displays Castel’s distinctive style, incorporating rich colours, archaic Hebrew and Sumerian letter forms, and mythological symbols:
Two paintings from the 1940s, “Composition” (left) and “Ancient Figures” (right):