Contributed by Caryn Starr-Gates


Even by today’s standards, Harry Houdini’s legendary escapes and feats of magic are amazing … and still influence a new generation of illusionists. A Jewish immigrant from Hungary (born Erich Weiss), Houdini eschewed his father’s rabbinic pulpit for more public exhibitions of his talents worldwide. The Jewish Museum in New York City has mounted the first art exhibition in an American art museum on Houdini with Houdini: Art and Magic, showing through March 27.

Artifacts include his straitjacket, handcuffs and milk can, posters, broadsides, period photographs, archival films, and contemporary art work about him. The museum’s website declares the exhibition “explores how Houdini’s role as an American icon was transformed across three centuries, first in the late nineteenth century by Houdini’s own interpretation of his status, next by twentieth-century popular culture, and today by contemporary artists who conjure Houdini as an audacious performer and showman of raw physicality. The theme of escape animates Houdini’s work and permeates the film footage, posters, (and) photographs from Houdini’s day.”

The Jewish Museum
1109 5th Avenue (at 92nd Street)
New York NY 10128