A Free and Developing Market

The exhibition space at the Dresdner Tavi Gallery, set to open next month at 24 Ahva Street in Neveh Tzedek, Tel Aviv, is very impressive.

The exhibition space at the Dresdner Tavi Gallery, set to open next month at 24 Ahva Street in Neveh Tzedek, Tel Aviv, is very impressive. This space aims to compete with the most happening galleries in the city, not only in terms of what it plans to show - contemporary Israeli and international art - but also in its design - 230 well-planned square meters, large show windows that face the street but do not reveal too much, professional employees sitting at the entrance, a concrete floor, a high ceiling and white walls. In the back are the offices, the storage room and even a pantry to keep bottles of wine for openings.

The gallery has been established by curator Tamar Dresdner and Nimrod Tavi, a young businessman and art lover. She brought the knowledge; he brought the money. This is a successful combination found at a growing number of exhibition spaces. The Raw Art Gallery, which opened about two years ago near Tel Aviv's old central bus station, is an example of one such relationship. It was established by Shimon Ben Shabbat, the owner of the Pe'er framing shop, and Eldan Barnoon, an art-lover from the world of high-tech.

Dresdner is a familiar figure in the art scene. She most likely would have opened a gallery years ago had she felt more secure, perhaps even along with the new generation of gallery owners - Irit Sommer, Alon Segev and Tal Esther Cederbaum (who closed her gallery half a year ago). Their galleries sprang up at the start of the decade, fomenting a local revolution. In retrospect, it can be said that the entry of new forces into the market has forced the other gallery owners to work more, in creating ties aboard and participating in art fairs (something only few galleries did beforehand). Today, anyone who does not work hard or travel often finds himself out of the game.

Dresdner believed that knowledge - and above all experience - are necessary to open a gallery. Therefore she waited for a good many years, 17 to be precise.

"For many years, I lacked the self-confidence," she says. "But later I realized that everyone was opening galleries, and now I feel ready."

In the early 1990s, she started to work as an advisor at the Tiroche gallery in Tel Aviv. She later completed a master's in art and found work as an assistant curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. After returning to Israel, she worked as an intermediary and consultant for collections. At a certain stage she also began to deal in art.

Dresdner concluded that it is becoming increasingly difficult for private individuals to deal in art. "The artists want you to give them a space to exhibit," she says, "and there are also a lot of new collectors who have entered the game. They prefer to buy at a gallery or at a studio. I got tired of running around, and I hope that now people will come to me."

Like every commercial gallery, Dresdner has a circle of artists committed to her: photographer Gaston Zvi Ickowicz, who has recently shown in many exhibitions, Sasha Serber (who not long ago had a successful exhibition at the Kibbutz Gallery), Dina Shenhav, Elad Kopler, Sharon Glazberg, Sari Carel, Rachel Giladi, and video artists Dana Levy, Ran Slavin and Shay Kun. Tsibi Geva and Gal Weinstein will also work with the gallery unexclusively.

Dresdner currently does not need more artists.

"Personal relationships are very important to me, so that the gallery isn't just a business," she says.

What does she promise to the artists she represents?

"I intend to show at fairs abroad, because nowadays there isn't a gallery owner who doesn't promise representation like that, and for the future, we're considering monthly salaries and purchasing works."

Mainly for commerce

Dresdner's space is one of three new galleries in South Tel Aviv. Each fills a different niche in an expanding field. If Dresdner is joining the rank of commercial contemporary galleries like Sommer, Braverman, Segev, Chelouche and Dvir, the exhibition space at 3 Shvil Hameretz, Private Show Room, is intended mainly for commerce. Shimon Ben Shabbat, the proprietor of Raw Art, owns the new place, which spreads over 130 square meters. It has an advanced sound system, a special exhibition for video works, and a polished, dark brown floor that reflects the paintings hanging on the walls.

Everything is planned to make potential buyers enthusiastic. Visits are by arrangement only.

Since the place opened in December, "there has been traffic, there has been action, there have been sales," says Ben Shabbat. This space is aimed primarily at selling. Ben Shabbat also plans to host two or three public exhibitions a year. The first, in March, will be of works by Ido Shemi. Later, there will be an exhibition by Greek artist Christadoulos.

This model, which is not common, is very reminiscent of the impressive exhibition space that Meir Loushy opened a few years ago on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Loushy also held some public exhibitions, but stopped after a short time. The Golconda Gallery, which recently moved to 27 Rothschild Boulevard, operates in a similar fashion.

Ben Shabbat offers paintings, photographs and video works for sale. He shows young artists who have just completed degrees at Bezalel, as well as more veteran artists like Eti Jacobi, Eran Wolkovsky, Avi Eisenstein, Avraham Pesso and Tomer Ganihar. Also for sale are works from his private collection, including works by Khen Shish and Naama Harpaz.

It appears that this space presents a solution to the problem that Dresdner brought up and Ben Shabbat also encountered - a dealer without an exhibition space is not attractive. Ben Shabbat now depicts himself as a framer, collector and gallery owner.

Before the big break

A few streets away stands a new exhibition space, Solo, which is fundamentally different from the others and belongs to different territory - small, non-commercial galleries dedicated to giving young artists a platform. The gallery was established and is supported by the Promarket marketing firm, and thus serves the interests of a company that can boast of its contribution to the art world. This contribution is currently a modest one: The gallery is located in a small niche at 7 Solomon Street, near the old central bus station.

During the day, visitors are greeted by the Promarket receptionist, and at night, the watchman.

Solo is another landmark on the gallery trail developing in this part of the city, which currently seems to be an alternative to the bourgeois establishment. Solo is a one-minute walk from Raw Art, which is located on the top floor of a bar and is open all night long, and a few minutes from the alternative space Hasandleria at 4 Hanegev Street.

The Solo gallery is curated by Dana Tagger, and will show paintings by recent graduates. The first exhibition, "Parts of Change" by Tirza Bessel, is set to open this evening. Bessel, a graduate of Israel Hirshberg's studio in Jerusalem, paints based on the classical tradition. After Bessel, Solo will host an exhibition by Bezalel graduate Shai Yehezkeli.

This gallery defines itself as an intermediary stop for art school graduates who have not yet made it to commercial galleries. There are no gallery artists there, there are no promises, and there are also no percentages. An artist who sells pockets the money.

This is also a place where sharp-eyed art lovers can find good deals. Both Dresdner and Ben Shabbat will undoubtedly visit the place, and perhaps in a year or two, one of them will exhibit Bessel's paintings. This is the nature of a developing market - it pays to get in early.