A Day at the Museum (Newsprint, 2010)

For the grand reopening of the Israel Museum, Haaretz asked seven artists to choose their favorite works

Thank God

Etti Ankri; musician, 47, from “a communal locale in the center of the country”

Chosen work: reconstruction of the Tzedek Veshalom ‏(Justice and Peace‏) Synagogue, from Suriname

“There are sacred objects here that were saved from a fire. It’s very moving; it gets to you. It belongs to the Jewish people’s history, to the pain and suffering that the nation endured throughout the years. It also creates a nice connection to the miniature model of [ancient] Jerusalem, with the Temple, that’s outside the museum.”

Is this synagogue a work of art per se that belongs in a museum? “I’d rather not comment.”

Do you go to museums a lot? “Not at all. A little bit when I’m abroad. I’m not really a big art lover. I’ve never been a big museum-goer, but in the last few years I’ve been more open to the plastic arts and to painting. I spend more time creating art than I do consuming it.”

If you weren’t a musician, what other artistic fields would you be involved in? “First I have to say, thank God I’m a musician. And if not, then painting maybe, or dance.”
What is your favorite work of art? “The world that God created is the greatest work of art.”
Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on? “I have to admit I don’t know enough. But I once heard the song ‘Rahamim’ ‏(‘Mercy’‏) by Mika Karni and I thought, ‘Now that’s a song I would have been happy to write.’ Or Avihu Medina’s melody for ‘Shabhi Yerushalayim.’”

Color vs. monochrome

Noa Barkai; actress, 38, Kfar Shmaryahu

Chosen works: “The Boy from South Tel Aviv” by Ohad Meromi ‏(2001‏), with “L-Leucine-15N” by Damien Hirst ‏(2001‏) in the background

“I loved the encounter between these two works, which ostensibly come from different worlds: Hirst is presenting a pop painting and Meromi’s sculpture has something simpler about it, that comes from the earth. Modern versus primitive, colorful versus monochrome. And there’s also something nice about the way the painting by the great artist Hirst is peeking out between the sculpture’s legs.”

Do you go to museums a lot? “Ever since I became a mother four years ago, I’ve been much less of a consumer of culture than before. When I was a kid, my parents dragged me from one museum to another all over Europe. Nearly every year we would travel there in the summer. My parents were big culture enthusiasts and that shaped my aesthetic world.”

If you weren’t an actress, what other artistic field would you be involved in? “Maybe performance art that combines dance, singing and self-exposure.”

Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on? “Anything by Bach, especially the Suites for Violin and Cello.”

The walls are murmuring

Renana Raz; dancer, 32, Tel Aviv

The chosen work: “Black Cloud” ‏(latent studio‏)” by Carlos Amorales ‏(2007‏)

“There’s a concreteness to this structure, but the moths transcend the boundaries of place and make it metaphysical. The walls are murmuring − you see different things from every angle. Because the work is happening on the walls and the space is large, it could be filled with movement, which is my language.”

What kinds of art are you interested in? “When I met Or [Raz’s partner, see photo], I discovered animation. Before that, I had a very narrow conception of it, and now I see how closely connected animation is with movement and dance.”

Do you go to museums a lot? “We had a membership to the Tel Aviv Museum, which we didn’t use that much. We go to shows at galleries.”

What is your favorite work of art? “An animated film by Michael Dudok de Wit, a Dutch animator, called ‘Father and Daughter.’ Or introduced me to it. You can see it on YouTube.”

If you weren’t a dancer, what other artistic field would you be involved in? “If I had to choose something new, then it would be to be a musician. I’m teaching myself a little automatic harp. It’s a harp that’s built like an accordion.”

Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on? “Twin Peaks” [an American TV show].

A thistle by any other name

David Polonsky; illustrator, 37, Tel Aviv

Chosen work: “Thistle” by Leopold Krakauer ‏(1953‏)

“Drawing is a kind of meditation, a way to disconnect from reality and observe it without the filter of the ego. Drawing can be slow and detailed, like in Adolf von Menzel’s ‘Portrait of a Woman.’ Or, like Krakaeur’s drawing, it can be faster and not contain much to look at, but still produce a strong emotional impact. For someone who is a native of Austria, a thistle is not just a thistle. It’s a symbol of the prickly sabra [a cactus; also a native-born Israeli] and the values that correspond to this idea: immediacy, dynamism, powerful drama in black and white. When I studied drawing at age eight, with a Russian teacher in Givatayim, I drew tons of thistles for her. It’s an organic but very complex form. There’s a lot of light and shade; it’s a good subject for charcoal drawing. The thistle is kind of a theme for immigrants from Europe.”

And sometimes a thistle is just a thistle. “There’s also something kitschy about it, but I love kitsch.”

What kinds of art are you interested in? “Movies. And I love drawing and printmaking.”
Do you go to museums a lot? “Yes, but not to galleries as much. I’m very bourgeois, I’m not involved in the cutting edge of modern art, with what’s happening now in Tel Aviv. I need others to take it in for me.”

If you weren’t an illustrator, what other artistic field would you be involved in? “I wouldn’t be involved in art. Anyone who works in illustration has a personality that isn’t suited to being a ‘free’ artist − you need a text to hold on to: an article, a children’s story, a film. The moment I’m told, ‘Say something on your own,’ it’s hard for me.”

What is your favorite work of art? “I can’t name just one. Right now I love the works of the German painter Otto Dix.”

Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on? “Maybe John Lee Hooker’s body of work.”

Part of the scene

Alon Neuman; actor, 43, Tel Aviv

Chosen works: Photos by Man Ray

“Man Ray has certain iconic works in the history of photography. The photos are super-expressive, very theatrical and dramatic, and seem like part of a scene. They make you feel there’s a story behind them. And that’s what usually interests me: stories. I really love photography, actually. I can’t say I’m very knowledgeable about it, but it speaks to me more than painting does. When I’m abroad, I go to exhibits sometimes − I don’t go as often when I’m in Israel − and I usually look for the photography. I have a friend who’s a photographer, Ori Gersht, and I’m also learning about stuff through him.”

If you weren’t an actor, what other artistic fields would you be involved in? “I’d probably be a musician, a writer, or maybe a photographer. I take lots of pictures. I used to have a reflex camera, too, back before the digital age. That’s on the level of a hobby. I have a sense of how to capture a beautiful moment, how to frame things, composition. But I don’t have the technical know-how to use this or that aperture, or specific types of lighting.”

What is you favorite work of art? “I don’t like to call anything my ‘favorite.’”

Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on? “I would love to have directed ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Days of Heaven,’ or to have written Chingiz Aitmatov’s ‘The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years.’ Or any song by Yoni Rechter.”

Politics kills

Enas Massalha; opera singer, 31, Berlin

Chosen work: Reconstruction of a 6th-century C.E. Byzantine church in the museum’s Holy Land gallery

“I’m ‘Muslim-lite.’ I grew up in a Muslim home and I have great respect for it, but I don’t practice any religion. In the gallery space here is a reconstruction of a church, a synagogue and a mosaic from some mihrab − the place where the sheikh stands and prays [facing Mecca]. As if they forced the exhibits to stand together and get along in the same space, to live with understanding and acceptance of this existence.”

This is easier to do in a museum than in the outside world.

“True. Even at the entrance to the room here, it says ‘Holy Land’ in Hebrew and English, and ‘Holy Lands’ in Arabic. Even on the translation, there is no agreement. But the Palestinian people and the Jewish people are too similar not to get along. Politics is what’s killing this.”

Do you take an interest in art? “I love Frida Kahlo and van Gogh. The last museum I visited was the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin, for the Kahlo retrospective. Now I’m starting to get acquainted with Palestinian artists, through friends on Facebook. Also, I love electronic music because I like collages that take things out of their natural place and make new connections. I myself am like a kind of collage.”

If you weren’t a singer, what other artistic fields would you be involved in? “Writing and painting fascinate me. And I cook, if you can call that art.”

What is your favorite work of art? “It may not have been written yet. But I dearly love Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos, for eight cellos and vocalist.”

Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on? “That’s a hard one. You can learn from other people, but you can’t sign your name in their stead.”

Twilight of history

Haim Be’er; writer, 65, Ramat Gan

Chosen work: painted clay ossuaries from the Chalcolithic period ‏(5,500-6,500 years ago‏), discovered on the outskirts of the village of Peki’in in the Upper Galilee

“These are images from the twilight of history, periods about which we know nothing, but you can see that the things that occupied people then are similar to those that occupy us today: sex and fertility, ritual, death. These are three main motifs in human existence. After they burned the body or collected bones that dried out, they performed a secondary burial in these ossuaries, which are about as long as the longest bone in the body. The idea that the dead find a home yields a sort of promise. It’s something elemental in human beings − the desire to return to your ancestors.”

Do you take an interest in art?

“As a cultured person. But it’s not what I do. My first love as a teenager was archaeology. In eighth grade and high school, I really wanted to be an archaeologist, but life had other dynamics. It was part of the magic spell cast by archaeology in this country in the 1950s.”

Do you go to museums a lot? “When there are new exhibits. I already know the permanent exhibits. I like to go to the archaeology wings. Not as an archaeologist, but as an observer of life, to see what once engaged people.”

What is your favorite work of art? “Tmol Shilshom ‏(‘Only Yesterday’‏) by S.Y. Agnon.”

Which work of art that’s not yours do you wish your name was on?

“I prefer my own kab to nine kabin of others: A man’s own kab ‏(measure‏), the remnant of his own labor, is dearer to him than nine kabin of others − there’s a saying like that in the Talmud.”