Haifa is an off-beat sort of city for a variety of reasons, one being that much of it perches on a mountaintop. Another is its self-proclaimed status as home to the Middle East’s only museum of Japanese art.
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Founded by German-Jewish art collector Felix Tikotin and the Haifa municipality in 1959, the original collection at the Tikotin Museum of Japanese has an interesting story.
Already a renowned collector of Japanese art by World War II, when the Nazis invaded his adopted home of the Netherlands, Tikotin tried to save his collection by hiding it. Nonetheless, like many other priceless collections, a large part of his collection was looted during the war.
Tikotin assumed the stolen works were lost - until he got a phone call in 1950 from the Dutch police, who asked him to examine a cache of Japanese art they had intercepted being smuggled into Belgium. To his astonishment, the Jewish art collector found himself looking at pieces from his own collection.
Tikotin’s choice to donate his collection to Haifa is less perplexing for those who visit the city with a keen eye. Haifa’s Mount Carmel, which looms over the port city and seashore below, resembles more than a few paintings by Japanese master painter Utagawa Hiroshige, some of whose works are held in the collection.
The Japanese painting and prints on display at the museums capture the aesthetic beauty of Japan’s artistic traditions, using simple, clean strokes and a limited number of colors to generate emotionally resonant images. A stop at the Tikotin Museum provides travelers an excellent break for aesthetic contemplation.
From a practical standpoint, the Tikotin Museum is also a perfect addition to the itinerary of any tourist looking to pack in several different Haifa sites or activities into a day of touring. A relatively small museum, the Tikotin’s exhibits can easily be appreciated within two to three hours of viewing and still provide ample time to appreciate the beauty of the individuals paintings and works of art in the collection.
The museum is also conveniently located within walking distance of some of Haifa’s major tourist attractions like the Bahai Gardens and the Haifa Cinematheque.
The museum reopened last Saturday after installing two new exhibits. The first, “Netsuke and Okimono,” displays carved decorative objects either worn attached to clothing or used as standalone objects. They were donated to the museum by a family collection this past fall. The second exhibit, “Kokuji and Calligraphy,” features Japanese calligraphic art. Both exhibits will be open until June 2, 2013.
89 Hanassi Avenue, Haifa
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday 10 A.M.– 4 P.M., Friday and holidays 10 A.M. – 1 P.M., Saturday 10 A.M. – 3 P.M.
For admission fees, check their website.