Sculptor, teacher and art critic Kobi Harel died following an accident on Nitzanim beach on Monday. He was 52.
Harel broke his neck while swimming in shallow water. Rescue workers were not able to revive him.
Hundreds of people attended the sculptor's funeral yesterday, including artists, friends and students. Harel leaves behind two children, a son, 14, and a daughter, 6.
Harel, a graduate of Hamidrasha Art College in Ramat Hasharon, taught at leading academies in Israel, including Hamidrasha Art College at Beit Berl, the animation unit at Bezalel and Sapir College, where he curated the most recent graduate exhibition.
Harel was known for his large-scale sculptures, some of which are in public places (in Ramat Hasharon and Jaffa ). He showed his works mainly in group shows, most recently "A Kind of Sin" at the Spaceship Gallery in Tel Aviv, but also had solo exhibitions, including one at the Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan.
He has works in many collections, especially museums, including Doron Sebbag Ors Ltd. Art Collection, the Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan, the Israel Musuem, the Tefen Museum and the Tel Aviv Musuem. Harel also received several prizes and stipends from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Michal Shamir, head of the Sapir College School of Art, Social Studies and Culture, and Harel's friend from their studies at Hamidrasha, said Harel's commitment to teaching and his students was extraordinary.
"He knew how to bring out the artist in them and how to break through their emotional barriers," she said. When Harel curated the graduate exhibition with Smadar Levy, they worked night and day and were in close contact with the graduates, she said.
Doron Rabina, an artist and the head of Hamidrasha Art College at Beit Berl, said Harel's sculpture "marks in the history of Israeli sculpture the clearly fetishist attitude toward the material, the conjunction of abstract sculptural values with traces of violence, extreme sexual practices and bitter humor."
In addition to Harel's art, it is important to remember him "as a gifted and beloved pedagogue, as a curator, as an art critic for the newspaper Hadashot and as the director of art events at the Bogroshov Gallery at the end of the 1980s. He invested all these roles with humaneness and a generous collegiality, which caused so many artists and students to love him," said Rabina.
"I have a deep fondness for this man," said artist Philip Rentzer, a lecturer at Sapir College and the University of Haifa who knew Harel for years. "He was intelligent, funny, an anarchist, attentive, curious and simply a wonderful man with a big heart. It really is very sad when a young person dies, and such a stupid death."
Artist Reuven Kuperman, Harel's close friend for the past four years, said both Harel and his work were full of humor. "What compelled him in his sculpture recently, but also in his early works, is a certain kind of Eros mingled with a sense of humor, vitality and sexiness. He was a person who loved to live and managed to live even in difficult periods."