Magnes director Alla Efimova stepping down

After 10 years at The Magnes, six as its director, Alla Efimova feels that the mission given to her by the community and the former Judah L. Magnes Museum’s board of directors has been fulfilled.  Efimova is stepping down as Reutlinger Director effective June 30.

Efimova has served The Magnes — first as curator of the Magnes Museum, and for the last six years as Reutlinger Director of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. In this decade of exemplary and innovative service, she has effectively orchestrated and led the effort to make The Magnes a public asset for teaching and research, and a showcase of the Bay Area’s Jewish heritage.

Efimova’s leadership and vision was a critical component of the transition from a founder-based museum housed in an aging, converted residence to a collection housed in a modern building that is now part of the world-renowned UC Berkeley. She has fostered the accessibility to and usefulness of the third-largest collection of Jewish art and history in the United States, enhancing its relevance to diverse audiences. Under Efimova’s stewardship, the collection has grown to include important examples of Judaica, contemporary art, photography and historical materials.

As a result of Efimova’s directorship, the Magnes has put on many important and ground breaking exhibits, including “Global India: Kerala, Israel, Berkeley,” which draws on the collection’s extensive holdings that document the 2,500 year history of Jews in Kerala, India and “Surviving Suprematism,” an exhibition of art and architecture by the Russian artist and architect Lazar Khidekel. Under her leadership, The Magnes has digitized thousands of artifacts and objects. Most recently, Efimova co-authored and developed the catalog, “The Jewish World: 100 Treasures of Art and Culture,” to be published in fall 2014 by Skira Rizzoli. This book, which will be distributed internationally, showcases the most special pieces from the collection, and provides an overview of Jewish art that spans multiple dimensions of Jewish life across the globe.

As a community liaison, Efimova has developed long-lasting partnerships with Bay Area cultural and social service organizations, enriching the Jewish community’s access to this heritage collection. Since the university’s acquisition of the Magnes in 2010, she has established new collaborations and programs that integrate The Magnes into the university’s mission of teaching and research.

Elaine Tennant, director of The Bancroft Library, of which the Magnes Collection is now a part, noted, “I am most grateful to Alla Efimova for her years of dedicated leadership of one of the most important collections of Jewish art, history and culture in the United States. She has done a splendid job guiding the transformation of the Magnes Collection from its original circumstances in a private local museum in Berkeley into its new role as a research collection in support of both community programming and the Jewish Studies Program at UC Berkeley.”

Bancroft will appoint a faculty committee to advise it on the Magnes Collection during the next year. Francesco Spagnolo, who has been with The Magnes since before its merger with the university, will continue as Magnes curator and will be responsible for exhibits and community programming.

Thomas C. Leonard

Kenneth & Dorothy Hill University Librarian

University of California, Berkeley