In Protest, Artist Erects Statue of Culture Minister in Central Tel Aviv

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The statue of Culture Minister Miri Regev in Tel Aviv, November 8, 2018.
The statue of Culture Minister Miri Regev in Tel Aviv, November 8, 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

A statue of Culture Minister Miri Regev was erected Thursday morning in central Tel Aviv. City inspectors gave the artist four hours to remove the statue from Habima Square, a popular gathering place adjacent to Israel's national theater.

Created by Itay Zalait, the statue of Regev is wearing a white dress similar to the “Jerusalem dress” she sported at the Cannes festival in 2017, spurring much hilarity online. 

The statue depicts Regev standing in front of a large mirror. A sign reads: “In the heart of the nation.”

On Wednesday the press received notices that “a subversive artistic action will be taking place in the public domain, in the Tel Aviv area (the precise location will be given towards dawn). Please prepare accordingly.”

Video footage of the statue made of Culture Minister Miri Regev in Tel Aviv

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“Thank you Itay Zalait for placing the mirror in the ‘Heart of the Nation’ at Hamiba Square,” Regev commented on Thursday morning. “In the last three years I have been placing a mirror before Israeli culture, who think it is no less than the ‘heart of the people.’" She continued to say that the mirror she's placed "exposed how [Israeli culture arena] marginalizes entire communities and looks down upon people. Well, the people, all the people, are my mirror. And what I see are the principles of justice when I invoke the Cinderella story and ask: Mirror, mirror on the wall, what are the ugliest wrongs in the city?”

Zalait says he created the piece in order to study people's responses. As for the choice of location, Habima is considered a center of high culture in Israel, he said. The mirror is intended to reflect reality, Zalait explained. “It mirrors reality, which can be seen in all kinds of ways. A mirror usually doesn’t lie, including in the famous fairytale.”

Artist Itay Zalait next to the statue of Miri Regev that he created, Tel Aviv, November 8, 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

He added that his work is not against “this or that law - there are processes that are taking place here and need to be responded to. Some people see this image as Cinderella, but some people said it’s Cinderella’s mother,” he said.

Zalait also made headlines two years ago for placing a gilded statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. It stood there for one night and by the middle of the following day it was torn down by Israelis who were invited to Rabin Square through social media to try and "topple Netanyahu" themselves.

Itay Zalait's 'King Bibi' statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

Asked if he feared a similar fate for the Regev work, Zalait said, “I think that’s the nice part, that there isn’t too much planning, and whatever happens, happens. The statue belongs to everybody in the public domain, not to me.”

Regev is pushing forth a law that will give her the authority to slash funding from cultural institutions that “contravene the principles of the state.”

The bill is an amendment to the culture and art law that has become known as the “loyalty-in-culture bill.” It has come under heavy criticism, as it allows the Culture Ministry to reduce the budget of these institutions or cancel it entirely because of any of the following reasons: denying the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; incitement to racism, violence or terrorism; supporting armed struggle or an act of terrorism, an enemy state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel; marking Independence Day or the day of the establishment of the state as a day of mourning; or an act of vandalism or desecration of the flag and state symbols.

“As I promised, the cultural loyalty law is on its way,” Regev has said about the law. 

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