The Life and Art of Alice Lok Cahana

Celebrated artist and Holocaust survivor Alice Lok Cahana made a vow as she faced the horrors of Auschwitz, and later, the Bergen-Belsen camp – if she survived, she would not hate those who imprisoned her and, she later learned, those who murdered her family. “If I hate,” Cahana often told friends, “That means Hitler would’ve won.”

Alice Cahana passed away in 2017, however, her story lives on through a prolific collection of abstract artwork that illustrates her experience during the Holocaust and memorializes the lives lost. Holocaust Museum Houston will celebrate Cahana, not only as an artist, but as a devoted friend, loving mother and resilient survivor, with the opening of The Life and Art of Alice Lok Cahana, on view February 3 through April 9, 2023, in the Josef and Edith Mincberg Gallery.

The exhibition of more than a dozen multi-media works includes two large pieces, “Have You Seen My Sister?” and “Bergen-Belsen”, on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, five works owned by HMH, and various unique paintings and one sculpture on loan from local friends and collectors. A video component of the exhibition will showcase personal stories and memories about Alice told by family and friends of the artist.

Alice grew up in Sárvár, Hungary, and at the age of 15 was transported to Auschwitz with her family as part of the massive deportation of Hungarian Jews. Liberated in 1945 from Bergen-Belsen, Alice was one of the fortunate few who survived.

In 1957, she moved to Houston where she studied art at the University of Houston and Rice University. Her early paintings were abstract color fields, reflecting the painting style that dominated Houston in the 1950s and 1960s. Paintings in this style relied heavily on color and flat surfaces devoid of representation. In the late 1970s, after a visit to her family’s former home in Hungary, began to create work through a new kind of mark-making, employing collage, along with an abstract visual language that could more directly express her memorial to the dead. She believed that her work had to be about the transcendence of the human spirit, the triumph of human spirituality over inhuman evil.

Alice Cahana’s work appears in prestigious collections around the world including Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust Museum Houston, and her painting “No Names” is the only piece of Holocaust art on permanent display at the Vatican Museum in Rome.

February 3, 2023 - April 9, 2023

Josef and Edith Mincberg Gallery

Lead Sponsors
Julie Dokell Cogan and John Cogan
Nancy and Jack Dinerstein
Ronald Grabois Family Endowment Fund
Dr. Anna Steinberger
Sterling Family Foundation
Nancy and Irving Stern

Exhibition Friends
Dr. Michael and Linda Eisemann
Dr. Kelli Cohen Fein and Martin Fein
Heidi and David Gerger
Ellen and Dan Trachtenberg
Marsha Wallace
Nina and Michael Zilkha Endowment Fund

Supporting Sponsors
Nancy and Rich Freed
Cheryl and Steve Golub
Simone and John Irwin
Dr. Milton and Gail Klein
Dr. Malcolm and Jackie Mazow
Drs. Harvey and Judith Rosenstock Endowment
Mitzi Shure and Jerry Wische
Betty G. Tapick
George Wozasek Endowment Fund in memory of Miriam Gerger