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Challenging the Market with Jewish Art

Penny Liebman’s two-year-old Contemporary Art gallery is doing exactly what its proprietor has been warned against by other gallery owners. “I was told not to growth my passion when showcasing art. Go with what will sell,” Liebman recalls. “By being honest and true to myself,” Liebman says, she has found herself displaying painting and sculpture from young, emerging Jewish artists in her studio apartment-turned gallery on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

An art historian and enthusiast, Liebman has created a forum to show art focusing on Jewish heritage, experience, history and “themes of otherness.” Liebman has showcased the works of Barbara Rose Haum, who utilizes the influences of psychoanalytic theory feminist thought, and theology within her sculpture. In her series entitled Separation Anxiety, Haum raises ideas about mother/child separation, and their reference to laws of impurity and religious ritual.

“It is difficult to find collectors who come specifically to find Jewish content. But because the art I am showing is so exceptional,” Liebman adds, “and because collectors are finding that Jewish themes can be more avant-garde and mainstream than people think, my gallery has been successful.”

Offering four shows per year, Liebman’s gallery also combines fine art with literature in a Jewish American Fiction Reading Series, which she hopes will create an environment in which new and emerging artists can interact.