Press Releases

Prof. Murray Zimiles Curates “Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses” at the American Folk Art Museum, Through March 23

Date Released: 10/30/2007

Purchase College Art+Design Professor Murray Zimiles is the guest curator and organizer of the exhibit Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, a major presentation at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City on view through March 23, 2008.

This groundbreaking exhibition tells the story of a little-known aspect of American carousel history and its connection to Jewish values. Approximately 100 splendid and rarely exhibited artworks are on loan from public and private collections from the U.S. and Israel.

The American Folk Art Museum is located at 45 West 53 Street, New York City. It is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:30 AM - 5:30 PM and Friday until 7:30 PM. Admission is $9; students and seniors $7; children 12 and under are free.  Admission is free to all on Fridays from 5:30 - 7:30 PM. For further information, visit and; or call 212-265-1040.

Murray Zimiles is an artist and Kempner Distinguished Professor at Purchase, where he has taught drawing and printmaking in the School of Art+Design since 1977.

Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses is the first major study of an important aspect of the Jewish contribution to American folk art.  Many of the artisans who arrived in America carved for their local synagogues; some also found work creating horses and other animals for the flourishing carousel industry. Inspired by the memory of symbolic references carved into majestic Torah arks and gravestones and cut into paper, they translated these motifs into an American idiom, elevating carousel art into a powerful sculptural expression of dynamic and animated forms. Although fanciful carousel animals have long been exhibited in museums, the religious carvings have primarily been known and appreciated only within the setting of the synagogue. Until now, the important historical and aesthetic link between the two has never been documented.

Professor Zimiles has researched and documented the story of Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel for more than 20 years.  During that time, he has traveled extensively throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Israel and the United States to study and photograph artwork and synagogues, in addition to consulting with more than 150 curators, historians, art historians, collectors, librarians, archivists and religious scholars. 

He has lectured widely on Jewish woodcarving traditions in the United States and abroad and  is the author of exhibition catalogs and books, including Early American Mills (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. 1988), a book on wooden architecture that spurred his interest in the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe.

He has had solo exhibitions at the Purchase College Neuberger Museum;  the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York; and the National Museum of American Jewish History, among others, and has participated in more than 100 group shows here and abroad.  He is represented in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, all in New York; the New York Public Library; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., as well as the Museum of Modern Art, Haifa and Tel Aviv Museum in Israel.  He holds a B.F.A. from the University of Illinois and a M.F.A. from Cornell University.

The exhibition will travel to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y. from May 24 to September 1, 2008.