It all seemed quite simple. The Tel Aviv municipality placed 18 pianos throughout the city during Sukkot to make music more accessible to the public at large.
The project, held for the second year running, is based on the concept "Play Me, I'm Yours" by British artist Luke Jerram. But the artist says he objects to the Israeli version, which is co-sponsored by a company. And the pianos should be put in places that need them, not tourist sites and cultural centers.
Jerram said in an email he has nothing to do with the Tel Aviv project, which is co-sponsored by Tabor Winery. Jerram says he would never let an alcohol company sponsor a family project.
Tabor Winery delivered 18 old pianos to the Habima Theater area, Tel Aviv Port, Hayarkon Park, the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater, Jaffa Port, the Old Railway Station compound and Jaffa's Kedumim Square and flea market. No pianos were placed in grittier areas like the Hatikva market or Levinsky Park, or near an Arab cultural center.
The city denied that it had placed the pianos in locations where they would be less likely to be vandalized. "The pianos were placed in tourist centers that attract many people from outside Tel Aviv as well, to enable as large a public as possible to enjoy the project," the municipality said in a statement.
"Four pianos were placed in the south of the city and Jaffa. No pianos were placed in northern neighborhoods such as Zahala, Ramat Aviv, Kochav Hatzafon and Ne’ot Afeka either."
Jerram's project has been touring the world since it was launched in 2008 in Birmingham, England; it has reached more than 3 million people. So far more than 1,000 pianos have been placed in 37 cities in public parks, bus shelters, train stations, markets and even ferries.
"The idea for ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ came from visiting my local launderette," Jerram says on the project's website.
"I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realized that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space."