Furor Persists at Tel Aviv Art School Over Nude Painting of Minister

Shenkar College's Prof. Larry Abramson tenders resignation – again – citing censorship and lack of confidence.

Shany Littman
Shany Littman
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A new work by student Yam Amrani, center, which replaced an earlier, controversial one by him at the Shenkar College student show, July 2016.
A new work by student Yam Amrani, in the center, has now replaced the controversial one he painted with the nude figure of Minister Shaked.Credit: David Bachar
Shany Littman
Shany Littman

Prof. Larry Abramson, head of the Multidisciplinary Art School at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Art and Design, has once again announced his resignation. The decision came after unknown persons over the weekend removed the black duct tape that covered the face of a woman – apparently Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked – in a painting by graduating student Yam Amrani.

Abramson claims that college president Yuli Tamir had demanded once again that he censor the work – contrary to agreements reached between college administrators and students.

In a letter to Tamir, Abramson described the developments since she first ordered him last week to cover and/or remove part of the painting, which depicts the minister in the nude. Abramson explained how he initially tendered his resignation, agreed to postpone it in favor of an open dialogue about censorship, and then withdrew his resignation completely after it was decided that the school would establish a broader forum to discuss the matter, including representatives of the teachers and students, in addition to the president.

But after someone removed the tape covering the face in the painting and Tamir once again demanded that he censor it, Abramson wrote, he felt he was being forced again to act contrary to his principles, and was disappointed that she was not acting in the spirit of the agreement to discuss those principles in a proper forum.

He was later told that Amrani had decided to remove the controversial painting and to replace it with another one.

“In your conduct you expressed a lack of confidence in me as the head of the school,” wrote Abramson, “and a lack of loyalty to the principles at the basis of the agreement to establish a council to defend freedom of expression in Shenkar. Under these circumstances I cannot continue in an administrative role at Shenkar. As a rank-and-file faculty member I will continue to educate my pupils in the light of the principles of freedom of expression and critical thinking.”

Shenkar’s response: “We regret the resignation of Prof. Abramson. Unfortunately, he became involved in a series of activities leading him to send an insulting letter of resignation, which is full of inaccuracies. We will continue to act in accordance with the principles of freedom of art and freedom of expression, while enforcing other humane values.”