A Year Full of Art: Israel Prepares for a Cornucopia of Aesthetic Delights

A jubilee celebration at the Israel Museum, a show by Palestinian artists at the Ein Hod museum and first-time solo exhibitions by leading international artists are only some of the events to look forward to.

Olaf Breuning

The coming 12 months will see the commemoration of a number of special anniversaries in the Israeli art world. Jerusalem’s Israel Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding with a series of birthday exhibitions. In Be’er Sheva, the jubilee of the installation of Dani Karavan’s “Monument to the Negev Brigade” – the first environmental sculpture created by the Israel Prize laureate – will be marked by a large-scale exhibition and a series of cultural events. Petah Tikva will hold events to mark the 10th anniversary of the reestablishment of its museum of art.

In addition, the Janco Dada Museum in Ein Hod, south of Haifa, will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of one of its founders, painter Marcel Janco, and will host an exhibition by Palestinian artists whose point of departure is the fact that the museum (and the surrounding artists’ colony) stands on the ruins of a Palestinian village.

It will be interesting to see whether these landmark events will generate any new thinking about the history and present state of Israeli art.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The coming year at the Israel Museum will be dominated by events marking the institution’s jubilee. The celebrations will begin with the show “6 Artists, 6 Projects,” opening in February. Curated by Mira Lapidot, Amitai Mendelsohn, Aya Miron and Noam Gal, the exhibition will showcase six contemporary Israeli artists. Each one will present a new, finished project selected by the curators with the aim of acquainting the public with the current landscape of local art. The artists involved are Uri Gershuni, Roi Kuper, Dana Levy, Tamir Lichtenberg, Ido Michaeli and Gilad Ratman.

A retrospective of the work of Druze artist Asad Azi, including this painting, 'Untitled' (2013), will be held at the Museum of Art, Ein Harod.

The keynote event of the celebrations, entitled “1965” (curators: Mira Lapidot, Aya Miron, Noam Gal and Noga Eliash-Zalmanovich), will open in April and offer a visual tour of Israel as it was in 1965, when the museum was established. It begins with a presentation of typical interior design 50 years ago. The focus in general will be on local artwork, including that of artists who were shown in the fledgling museum and elsewhere in Israel in the mid-1960s.

Also referenced will be contemporaneous international art created in the United States and Europe, such as minimalism and pop art, although it was accessible to artists in Israel on a very limited scale at the time, usually by means of publications or visits abroad. Thus the show will also highlight the disparity between local and international trends half a century ago.

Another part of “1965” will address the growing place of the photographic image in the 1960s. The media will include documentary footage and television newsreels, home movies, and experimental film and video art.

On May 11, an exhibition titled “Happy Birthday” (curator: Orna Granot) will open in the museum’s Youth Wing, dealing with the theme of birthdays throughout the history of art, but consisting largely of contemporary works.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The Tel Aviv Museum will in the coming year feature one-man exhibitions by local and foreign contemporary artists, together with themed group shows. In November, the museum’s new wing will be the site of the installation “Up in the Air,” by American artist Tom Friedman. The work is made of about 1,000 everyday objects, suspended from the ceiling and together creating a gigantic floating still-life. The work was first shown in 2010 at Magasin 3 in Stockholm, in a horizontal gallery space. Friedman will come to Israel in order to reinstall it in the museum’s “light fall” vertical space.

In December, the museum’s Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art will host an exhibition by the Albanian-born, Paris-based artist Anri Sala, his first one-man show in Israel. Sala’s works explore the interrelationship between sound and space. Occupying the entire pavilion, the show will highlight a selection of the artist’s video works, sculptures and drawings, and the installation “Ravel-Ravel-unRavel,” which represented France in the 2013 Venice Biennale.

The Negev Museum of Art, Be’er Sheva, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dani Karavan’s 'Monument to the Negev Brigade.' Photo by Goel Drori

Another solo exhibition, by photographer Ori Gersht, will open at the museum in December. According to its curator, Doron Lurie, “Gersht examines the boundaries of photography and challenges its technological limitations.”

In March a rather unusual show will open, entitled “National Collection” and curated by Ruti Direktor, who notes that it addresses “the connection between art and the construction of national identity.” Visitors will be guided through the exhibition by members of Public Movement, a performance-art group – and it will mark “the first time the museum will maintain a full-scale performance exhibition for an extended period,” during all the hours the museum is open.

Direktor is also curator of another exhibition slated to open that month, “Africa,” showcasing works by African artists who live in Africa, by artists of African origin who live elsewhere, and by artists for whom the concept of “Africa” is a theme in their work.

According to the curator, “the exhibition will deal with the continent of Africa as an idea, as a dream, as a fantasy,” and the works on display “respond to the idea of Africa and also to the idea of blackness, which on the one hand is threatening, instinctual and dark, and on the other is the symbol of the abstract, the height of elegance.”

The show also commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the onset of the postcolonial period, which brought into being a new Africa: redivided according to artificial borders, strife-torn and struggling for liberation.

An exhibition opening in May, curated by Charlotte Cotton, former head of the photography department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will examine the complexity of Israel and the West Bank’s territories as a place and a metaphor, as perceived by 12 well-known international photographers who visited Israel and met with local thinkers. The show will be launched later this month in the Dox Center for Contemporary Art in Prague, before traveling to Tel Aviv. It will then go on to the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Negev Museum of Art, Be’er Sheva

A work by Ori Gersht, to be featured at his one-man show in the Tel Aviv Museum.

October 23 will mark the opening of a show at the Negev Museum of Art, honoring the 50th anniversary of the installation of Dani Karavan’s “Monument to the Negev Brigade,” located on the city’s outskirts, and of Karavan’s public sculpture work in general (curator: Adi Engelman).

“Monument” is considered one of Israel’s iconic works of sculpture. According to Engelman, the sculpture – a memorial to the members of the Negev Brigade who fell in the War of Independence – “has long since become an integral feature of the surrounding landscape, and for many people has become the iconic and representative image of Be’er Sheva itself.” She adds that in many ways the work was “the source and inspiration for many of Karavan’s other monumental creations in Israel and internationally in the 50 years since then.”

The show will feature models and photographs documenting the sculpture’s planning and construction, a first public showing of historic shots of it taken by photographer Yaakov Agur, testimonies and photos from residents of Be’er Sheva, and documentary films dealing with or inspired by the work.

The Museum of Israeli Art, Ramat Gan

A number of artists will have solo exhibitions next year in the Museum of Israeli Art, including Jack Jano, Asana Amid and sculptor Esther Halperin.

The Museum of Art, Ein Harod

The museum on Kibbutz Ein Harod will continue in the coming year to focus on historical artistic perspectives, as well as on special works that emerged from what it terms a critical dialogue with the local environment. On the historical side, there will be an exhibition of works by Arieh Allweil, the artist of Bitania, the 1920s utopian community on Lake Kinneret. A retrospective of the works of the Jaffa-based Druze painter Asad Azi will also be on display (curator: Gilad Melzer).

As part of the project devoted to art resulting from the museum’s dialogue with its surroundings, German artist Olaf Holzapfel will use junk from the playground to create art in the museum, with the help of kibbutz members. In another project, Hilla Ben Ari will pay homage to Nahum Benari, her great-uncle, and one of the founders of the kibbutz and its museum. By means of multichannel video works, Ben Ari will relate to the structure of a stage dating to the early days of Ein Harod, as well as with kibbutz-related texts inspired by ancient Greek theater. Her work typically deals with issues of community, the power of creativity and questions of sin, guilt and punishment.

The Haifa Museum of Art

'Autumn Leaves,' by Tal Frank, will be on display at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo by Tal Frank

The Haifa Museum of Art will hold an exhibition of works from its collection, opening in November (curators: Leah Abir and Orit Bulgaro). The show will reference the museum’s functions in the past as a showcase of both modern and folkloristic art, and will focus on various historical and geopolitical aspects of the collection.

Also in November there will be a one-man show by the New York-based, Swiss-born artist Olaf Breuning (curated by Abir), his first comprehensive exhibition in the country. It will include staged works of photography from the past decade and the film trilogy “Home,” created over the course of seven years. The opening will feature performance by Breuning called “Smoke Bombs” outside the museum.

An international group exhibition in March, titled “Transparent Work” (curators: Yael Messer and Gilad Reich), will deal with “the two poles that characterize the world of work in the late capitalist age: on the one side, non-material work based on cognitive abilities, and on the other, cheap labor, unprotected and unorganized, performed by ‘invisible’ laborers.”

The Bat Yam Museum of Art

A show of artwork by the Italian-American artist Francesco Finizio, opening in February, will cover the entire area of the Bat Yam Museum (curator: Joshua Simon). Slated for next summer is a group show in collaboration with the Center for Digital Art in Holon, titled “The Israelization of the World.”

The Petah Tikva Museum of Art

In the forthcoming months, the Petah Tikva Museum, which this fall will mark the 10th anniversary of its reopening, will “focus on issues relating to the Israeli space and to universal themes concerning contemporary society, while continuing to build the museum institution as a test site assuming a social role,” according to information from the museum.

Ido Michaeli, Carpet, Bank Hapoalim (2012). Photo Courtesy of the Israel Museum

October will see the opening of a show organized within the framework of the “Post-Global Channels of Communication” part of Mediations Biennale 2014 in Poznan, Poland – a series of international events taking place this fall. Curated by Drorit Gur Arie, the Petah Tikva exhibition will address the issues of migration and the constant movement that characterizes the post-global world.

A show slated for February, curated by Tali Tamir, will focus on local agriculture in contemporary art – specifically, on a formative concept in Israeli-Zionist culture: the farming ethos. July will see the opening of a group show at the museum entitled “Polis” (curator: Hila Cohen-Schneiderman), which is based on a two-year project involving 11 artists. Each artist will take responsibility not only for his or her “private” exhibition space, but also for creating a “public” element that is of some relevance to all the participants.

Janco Dada Museum, Ein Hod

In April, the Janco Dada Museum in Ein Hod, south of Haifa, will mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of Marcel Janco with a special exhibition devoted to the artist’s work and to creations by contemporary artists in response to Janco. In an exhibition titled “Displaced” (curator: Raafat Hattab), which is slated for June, Arab artists will deal with the “price” paid for the establishment of Ein Hod and its museum on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Ein Hawd.

The Jerusalem Artists’ House

A show to be held at the Jerusalem Artists’ House (curator: Tali Ben-Nun) will center around the fact that this was actually the first museum established in pre-1948 Palestine, later evolving into a public gallery space. According to the curator, the museum “is packed to the point of suffocation with memories of the past and fears of the future.”

The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv

Two solo shows, by Wilfredo Prieto and by Ariel Schlesinger, will open in December at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv (curator: Chen Tamir). A one-man show by photographer and video artist Dor Guez (curator: Sergio Edelstein), in February, will address the subject of the complexity of identity in the Middle East. Another solo exhibition, slated for July, by Ohad Meromi, will feature an installation that will fill the museum’s two floors.

Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon

“Fine Mechanics” opened last month at the Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon. On through January, the exhibition marks the creation “of a group of artists who will operate in a creative and research setting in the [center’s] FabLab, and strive to conduct critical-artistic thinking and creative processes vis-à-vis technology.” The show, “the essence of which is ongoing engagement with different practices and approaches to using technology in art,” will be accompanied by workshops and presentations. 

In November, the center will hold a first-ever exhibition by Becky Mayner, documenting by means of collages the disadvantaged Jessie Cohen neighborhood of Holon, where the artist grew up in the 1960s (curators: Eyal Danon, Udi Edelman). A show focusing on self-expression and the “do-it-yourself” culture will be held in February, with the participation of local and international musicians, artists, writers, architects and academics, along with young people from the Jessie Cohen neighborhood (curators: Luciana Kaplun and Mai Omer).

The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art

In May, the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art will present the results of a collaborative project by participants in an Israeli-German artists’ exchange program in Dusseldorf, supported by a foundation run by art-lover Gil Bronner and his family. A solo show of works by Uri Lifschitz, as well as an exhibition by sculptor Miriam Baruch Chalfi, in collaboration with the curator Galia Bar Or, are also scheduled.

The Ashdod Museum of Art

An exhibition of Israeli photography from the 1980s will open at the Ashdod Museum of Art in January. According to the curator, Yuval Biton, that decade “marks the consolidation of Israeli photography in the local field of art. A new and young generation of photographers, many of whom returned to Israel after academic studies abroad, have placed photography in the forefront of Israeli art and made possible the establishment of galleries devoted to photography, photography departments in museums, and the creation of schools of photography.”