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Skirball Cultural Center

This is a past exhibition

This exhibition was on view at the Skirball
December 4, 2018–March 10, 2019

About the Exhibition

Sara Berman’s Closet was a one-of-a-kind exhibition by artists Maira Kalman (b. 1949) and Alex Kalman (b. 1985) inspired by the life of Maira’s mother and Alex’s grandmother, Sara Berman (1920–2004). 

At the age of sixty, Berman relocated to New York from Tel Aviv after ending a thirty-eight-year marriage. One morning, in another self-expressive burst of independence, Berman decided to wear only white. With militaristic precision and loving care, Berman kept her minimal belongings in perfect order, starching, ironing, folding, and stacking her clothes—even her socks—within a humble closet in her small studio apartment in Greenwich Village. Berman’s closet and its monochromatic contents became emblematic of her liberation: she had edited everything to the essential and in this editing found happiness.

When Berman died in 2004, her family saved the contents of her closet. Ten years later, Maira and Alex recreated the closet in an alleyway in lower Manhattan for Mmuseumm. In 2016, Sara Berman’s Closet was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Skirball, the installation was complemented by twelve new paintings by Maira that depict pivotal scenes from her mother’s life—from childhood to marriage to her new life in New York. In its LA engagement, Sara Berman’s Closet was an intimate exploration of identity, feminism, family, and memory. 

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