The Museum of Japanese Art on the crest of Mount Carmel is dedicated exclusively to the preservation and exhibition of Japanese art works, and is the only one of its kind in the Middle East. The Museum is a municipal foundation, set up in 1959, on the initiative of Felix Tikotin (1893-1986) from Holland, and Abba Khoushy (1898-1969), Mayor of Haifa at that time. The Museum aims to allow Israelis to learn and become acquainted with Japanese culture; to promote mutual understanding between Israel and Japan, and between East and West; and to encourage research into the arts and culture of Japan.
Felix Tikotin, an architect by profession, was an internationally renowned collector and dealer in Japanese works of art. For more than forty years he amassed his valuable and rare collection and organized exhibitions of Japanese art in many museums. During the Second World War, because he was Jewish, Felix Tikotin fled from the Nazis. He hid his collection in Holland to prevent it from falling into their hands. After the war, Tikotin decided that his unique collection should be taken to Israel, and came here in 1956 in order to donate it to one of Israel's museums. During a visit to Haifa he met Mayor Abba Khoushy, and decided that the collection should remain in Haifa, and that he would build a pavilion specifically for exhibiting it here.
Having come to this decision, Tikotin travelled through out Europe, to Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, England, and also to Japan, and set up a committee of supporters of the Japanese Museum in Haifa. The reason for creating the Japanese branch was to gain advice and expertise about construction of such a museum. Members of the group included museum directors such as Mr. Nagatake Asano (1895-1965); academics such as Professor Chisaburoh Yamada (1908-1984) of the Tokyo University of Art, who was also chosen to be the first Director of the Japanese Museum in Haifa; spiritual leaders such as Victor M. A. Suzuki, son of the famous Zen philosopher, and others.
At a meeting of the Haifa Municipality on May 18th 1958, it was decided to acquire the "Kisch House" and its surrounding land. The house was built by Brigadier Kisch, Chairman of the Zionist Workers' Committee in Israel and Head of the State Department from 1923 to 1931. He lived in this house from 1934 to 1939. Kisch, who commanded the Engineering Brigade of the British 8th Army, fell in battle in North Africa in April 1943, during the Second World War. The Kisch House is still the home of the offices of the Museum, the library, the creativity workshops, and a Japanese room. The
library - the largest of its kind in Israel - comprises some 3,000 books and publications relating to Japanese art and culture.
In February 1959 plans were approved for a Japanese pavilion, and construction began on the exhibition hall in accordance with the ideas and plans of Felix Tikotin, supervised by the architect M. Lev. The exhibition hall was designed in the Japanese spirit, and according to its specific purpose. It is spacious, and has sliding doors of paper leading to the garden, all conveying a Japanese atmosphere. On Wednesday May 25th 1960, the Japanese Museum was opened to the public for the first time, with an exhibition of works from the donor's collection. In accordance with Tikotin's wishes, a Board of Trustees of the Museum was set up and is headed today by Ilana Drukker-Tikotin, his daughter.
The Museum's collection comprises some 7,000 items of art and crafts - paintings, prints, drawings, painted screens, textiles, antique illustrated texts, ceramics, miniature carvings (netsuke), lacquer and metal work, antique swords and functional art works, mainly from the 17th to 19th centuries, as well as a collection of modern Japanese art. The collection has increased over time, and other private collections have been donated to the Museum, by Lewis B. Gutman and Daniel and Hildav Lebow of New York, by Abraham Horodisch of Amsterdam and by Shulamith and David Rubin.en of California.
Many items have also been contributed by: Yuji Abe of the Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo; Paul Bloom, Tokyo; Joanna Borensztajn-Tikotin, Amsterdam; Ilana Drukker-Tikotin, Jerusalem; Alice Grilli, Tokyo; Felix Juda, Los Angeles; Heinz M. Kaempfer, The Hague; Frank Koren, Tokyo; Mitsuko Matsumara, Kibbutz Dalia; J. Mayuyama, Tokyo; Bernard and Sue Pucker, Pucker Gallery, Boston; Ryo International Gallery, Tokyo; Harry Shupak, Honolulu.
Exhibitions at the Museum are composed of a variety of elements of Japanese culture, displaying a broad cross-section of art, both traditional and modern, and emphasizing the aesthetic values unique to Japanese art. According to Japanese custom, a room is sparsely furnished with items selected for specific events and for the season. Hence the exhibitions displayed in the Museum's halls are changed approximately every three months, and subject, style and period are common to all of them. Many exhibitions are accompanied by illustrated catalogues and explanatory texts.
In 1995 a new wing was added to the existing exhibition hall. It was designed by the Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura (1908-1997) of Tokyo, together with the Israeli architect Professor Al Mansfeld (1912-2004) of Haifa, and funded by the Eva Tikotin-Licht Foundation. Two of the most successful projects of Professor Yoshimura, one of the renowned architects of Japan, are the National Museum at Nara in Japan, and the Japanese House in New York. Professor Mansfeld is known in Israel principally as the co-designer, with architect Ms. Dora Gad, of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, for which they were awarded the Israel Prize.
The new structure has two floors and a lower parking area, and extends over 1,800 square metres. The exhibition hall covers 350 sq.m. and is connected to the original hall (300 sq.m.) in the old building. Adjacent to the large hall is a smaller hall of 120 sq.m. On the second floor the Raphael Angel acoustic Auditorium has been constructed, with two hundred seats. The old building is a single storey, and its integration with the new building has created a single harmonious unit, embodying the Japanese spirit.
Felix Tikotin's dream was that the Japanese Museum should be a centre for studying Japanese arts and culture and for broadening the Israelis' knowledge about Japan. In the educational branch of the Museum, workshops based on the exhibitions are conducted for schoolchildren and those of kindergarten age, for teachers, and for other groups. Courses are given about the Japanese language, calligraphy and ink drawing, ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), cooking, and special activities are held for children. There are also Japanese rooms, for learning about how people live in Japan, their clothing, food, and homes.
The Museum presents a variety of events concerning the arts and culture of Japan. These include lectures, films, the tea ceremony, festivals and special celebrations, many of which are held in the Raphael Angel Auditorium. As a result of its activities, the Museum has become a centre for promoting and understanding the unique Japanese culture, and for establishing closer ties between two nations.
In 2000, the Museum received the prestigious Japan Foundation Special Award, which is conferred annually on institutions that make significant contributions to cultural exchanges with Japan. In 2003, the Israeli Ministry of Education and Culture's committee for evaluating the quality of exhibitions and collections ranked the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art second only to the Israel Museum in order of Merit.