I couldn’t say how many times I’ve walked down Main Street, but I could say that whatever the number is, that’s exactly how many times I’ve walked past Belz Museum. In a city like Memphis, with something new to do around every corner, it’s easy to get caught up and forget to take a look around.
So, I found myself on the stairwell leading down to the museum one Tuesday afternoon asking myself, “What exactly is Belz?”
Well, for starters, the Belz family is pretty well known around the Memphis area for many accomplishments, including, but not limited to, the reopening of the Peabody Hotel in 1981. Jack Belz, Chairman and CEO of Belz Enterprises, and his wife, Marilyn, have been collecting Asian art since the 60s. It’s an interest they’ve held from their first gallery purchase.
As time went on, Belz found admiration for Judaic art as well, and the collection began to grow.
It would be 30 years from that initial purchase before Belz would open a museum to display the collection.
In 1998, the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art opened to the public. The museum originally opened as the Peabody Place Museum, however, the name was changed in 2007 to better reflect the two cultures represented and the Belz family’s huge contribution.
From the minute I hit the first exhibit I was shocked. I don’t know what I was expecting, but as far as expectations go, mine were surpassed and thrown out the window.
Belz Museum has an extensive collection of more than 1,400 pieces throughout the collections.
This includes jade and ivory sculptures, ceremonial objects, paintings, and so much more. Most of the pieces in the Asian art collections feature around the Qing Dynasty, which began in 1644 and ended in 1911.
The exhibits include the Holocaust Memorial, Judaic, Imperial Retreat, and Tusk Galleries. After passing through the Moon Gate the other exhibits available are the Throne Room, as well as the Pagoda and the special exhibit.
Personally, I think my favorite pieces were in the Tusk Gallery. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad while admiring everything, considering where the tusks came from, but the delicacy and intricacy of the pieces were so beautiful I can’t even describe it.
I’ve really never seen anything like the pieces they have on display inside the Belz Museum.
It’s something I really suggest seeing in person. Pictures and words really aren’t enough to do this Memphis gem justice.
The museum is open 10 am to 5:30 pm from Tuesday to Friday, and is open from noon to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. For admission, adults pay $6, seniors pay $5, and students only pay $4. Make sure to stop in with plenty of time to spare, the last ticket is always sold one hour prior to closing, but if I’m being honest that’s not enough time to make it through the museum anyway.
The Belz Museum is also currently sponsoring a 3D movie at the Pink Palace, Mysteries of China. The film opened on February 9 and ties in with a lot of the collection found inside Belz.
Just in case anyone needed one more reason to visit the museum, Belz is observing free admission for all guests on National Armed Forces Day in May. The museum is accepting donations for Veterans Associations. There will also be giveaways and docent-led tours every hour.