articles / Visual Art

Sara Berman’s Closet

Sara Berman’s daughter Maira Kalman and grandson Alex Kalman in front of her recreated closet | All photos by Susie Goodman

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Sara Berman’s Closet


Now through March 10, you can experience a one-of-a-kind exhibition by artists Maira Kalman and Alex Kalman, inspired by the life of Maira’s mother and Alex’s grandmother, Sara Berman (1920–2004), at the Skirball Cultural Center.

At the age of sixty, Berman relocated to New York from Tel Aviv after ending a thirty-eight-year marriage. One morning, in another self-expressive burst of independence, Berman decided to wear only white. With militaristic precision and loving care, Berman kept her minimal belongings in perfect order, starching, ironing, folding, and stacking her clothes—even her socks—within a humble closet in her small studio apartment in Greenwich Village. Berman’s closet and its monochromatic contents became emblematic of her liberation: she had edited everything to the essential and in this editing found happiness.

When Berman died in 2004, her family saved the contents of her closet. Ten years later, Maira and Alex recreated the closet in an alleyway in an elevator shaft in lower Manhattan for Alex’s museum Mmuseumm. In 2016, Sara Berman’s Closet was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Skirball, the installation will be complemented by twelve new paintings by Maira that depict pivotal scenes from her mother’s life—from childhood to marriage to her new life in New York. Don’t miss the LA engagement of this intimate exploration of identity, feminism, family, and memory.

What would Sara make of her closet’s metamorphosis into, as her grandson put it, “a monument to courage and independence and freedom?” Or the fact that her socks were on display at one of the worlds largest cultural institutions? “She would have thought we were crazy”, Maira Kalman said, “but in the best possible way”.

Experience Sara Berman’s Closet at the Skirball Cultural Center, now through March 10. To learn more, visit Learn more about Maira Kalman at and Alex Kalman at

Written by:
Sheila Tepper
Sheila Tepper
Published on 06.03.2019