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Ned Kahn: Negev Wheel

A kinetic sculptural installation by Bay Area environmental artist Ned Kahn

July 28, 2016–January 8, 2017
Opening Reception and Talk: July 28, 2016; 5-8pm with talk at 6pm

(San Francisco, CA, May 1, 2016) This July, The Contemporary Jewish Museum debuts an original kinetic sculpture, Negev Wheel, created by famed environmental artist and sculptor Ned Kahn (b. 1960, Connecticut). A resident of the Bay Area for over thirty years, Kahn is well known for creating installation works at the intersection of art and science that explore, mimic, and play with phenomena found in nature, such as the massive wind installation Firefly on the north façade of San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission building, and for his many years as a designer of several of the Exploratorium’s most popular displays. Flowing water, fog, sand, air currents, and light are his media, and with them, he creates artworks that allow viewers to observe and interact with the complex, continually changing, and often invisible forces of nature.

Negev Wheel is a colossal steel disk, twenty feet in diameter, that frames a reservoir filled with a mixture of glass beads and sand from Israel’s Negev Desert. As it spins, avalanching sand organizes into wave patterns suggestive of churning liquids. Often the two materials separate, each flowing in different ways. In the constant mixing, unmixing, and mixing again, Kahn creates a mesmerizing piece that invites contemplation of unity and complexity, change and permanence.

“The sand of the Negev Desert, which covers half of Israel, is a complex mixture of sands blown by the wind for centuries from all over the region,” says Kahn. “The idea was to take a piece of the desert, frame it in a circular enclosure, subject it to elemental forces and then let it express its nature.”

Alongside the larger sculpture, which is propelled by a motor, Kahn offers a second, smaller sand sculpture designed for public interaction. Visitors, especially children, can set this smaller work in motion themselves. Both pieces will be lit dramatically within the darkened gallery.

Negev Wheel will be a stunning, immersive, and thought-provoking experience for all of The Museum’s visitors,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director of The CJM. “Ned Kahn’s work is a breathtaking and dynamic spectacle that also prompts deep reflection on the ever-changing nature of the world around us.”

The exhibition is on view July 28, 2016–January 8, 2017 with a public reception on July 28, 2016 from 5–8pm. Kahn will discuss his work at 6pm. The evening also serves as the opening of the installation In That Case: Havruta in Contemporary Art, featuring the work of Bay Area-based artist Kota Ezawa in collaboration with contemporary dancer James Kirby Rogers. Ezawa and Rogers will speak at 6:30pm.

Ned Kahn

Holding a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Connecticut, Ned Kahn has realized many public art commissions, most notably for the Yahoo Headquarters (Sunnyvale, CA), the Huntington Botanical Gardens (Pasadena, CA), the University of Calgary (Canada), and the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL). His works have been exhibited in many different places – both science and art museums – such as the Museum of Natural History (London, UK), the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (New York, NY), and the Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, CA). Kahn has received numerous awards for his work, including an NEA Sculpture Fellowship in 1991 and 1994, a 2003 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship, and a 2009 Americans for the Art’s Public Art Award. 

Related Programming


For Families

Drop-in Art Studio
Select Sundays, 11am–3pm
Free with Museum admission

The Art of Sand | Aug 7, 14, 21, 28
Too cold for the beach? Stop by The CJM to build, paint, pour, and explore with one of nature’s most versatile materials. Inspired by Negev Wheel.

Making Mixes | Sep 4, 11, 18, 25
Art and science come together as you swirl, drip, knead, and experiment in this workshop inspired by the work of Ned Kahn.

About The Contemporary Jewish Museum

With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase “L’Chaim” (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by an Anonymous donor; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; the Hellman Family; the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; Osterweis Capital Management; Dorothy R. Saxe; Target; and Wendy and Richard Yanowitch.

For more information about The Contemporary Jewish Museum, visit The Museum’s website at 

General Information

The Museum is open daily (except Wednesday) 11am–5pm and Thursday, 11am–8pm. Museum admission is $15* for adults, $13* for students and senior citizens with a valid ID, and $8* on Thursdays after 5pm. Youth 18 and under always get in free. For general information on The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the public may visit The Museum’s website at or call 415.655.7800. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission Street (between Third & Fourth streets), San Francisco. 

*Price reflects an additional $3 surcharge throughout the run of Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition.

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