Karl Katz, an arts professional who helped shape museums across the United States and Israel, died in Manhattan on Wednesday, November 8, at the age of eighty-eight, Sam Roberts of the New York Times reports.
Born in Brooklyn on October 22, 1929, Katz was inspired to study art history after he attended a lecture by art historian Meyer Schapiro. He earned his bachelor’s degree in art history and Semitic studies, as well as his master’s degree in fine arts and archaeology, from Columbia University in New York. He completed his doctoral thesis, which focused on early Hebrew manuscripts from Yemen, but did not receive a Ph.D., as he did not fulfill his language requirement after refusing to study German following the Holocaust.
Katz was an educator, curator, filmmaker, and archeologist who led a number of prominent cultural institutions. He was first recruited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1953 to work as an educator during its exhibition “From the Land of the Bible.” He then traveled to Israel to work on excavations and serve as the founding curator of the Israel Museum. He returned to New York in 1968 to direct the Jewish Museum and joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art as chairman for special projects in 1971. He also served as the inaugural director of the Met’s office of film and television from 1980 to 1991.
Katz left the Met to create the Muse Film and Television, a nonprofit organization that produces arts-related films. In the 1970s, Katz suggested to the International Center for Photography’s founder Cornell Capa that his institution needed a museum. Capa opened the center’s first museum in 1974. Katz indeed helped plan a number of institutions, including the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki.