Naomi Aviv, Prize-winning Israeli Curator, Dies at 58

Aviv had 'the courage to write on art with a hint of humor, imagination and personal conviction,’ Culture Ministry judges wrote in 2011.

Naomi Aviv, a prize-winning curator whom the Culture Ministry has called “an uncompromising, one-woman enterprise,” has died. She was 58.

Aviv had recently undergone surgery at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital for a heart defect.

In 2011, when Aviv won the Ministry of Culture Prizesfor Curatorship, the judges called her “an independent curator active for more than 20 years in the Israeli curatorial field as an uncompromising, one-woman enterprise.”

According to the judges, “Naomi Aviv has never nestled under any institutional wing and has always maintained her independence of thought and ideas and her freedom of action. She has a unique writing talent, an intelligent, incisive and personal style, widespread knowledge in the fields of art and philosophy, and the courage to write on art with a hint of humor, imagination and personal conviction.”

Aviv wrote lucid essays on artists such as Philip Rantzer, Meir Agassi and Yechiel Shemi. Her high-profile 2010 essay “Tamar Getter and the Grotesque Circle of Chalk” was partly censored by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art amid a dispute on a retrospective exhibition of Getter’s works that Aviv had curated.

“As part of a procession of criminal, marginal, excluded and abject figures, [Getter] parades – as if they were perfect marionettes – an army of dwarfs, retards, scarecrows, immigrants and ludicrous monsters,” Aviv wrote.

“From the critical stance of an idiot or a clown she sets out for the focal points of ideological conflicts, clashing with utopian ideas – ideas and concepts that defined the supposedly universalist modernist doctrine, or that of the Zionist revolution, for example.”

Aviv also sat as a judge on art-prize committees, was a member of the National Council for Culture and the Arts, and curated many solo exhibitions, including those of Anisa Ashkar, Sigal Primor and Sharif Waked.

She also curated group exhibitions including the 1997 Ein Hod Sculpture Biennale “Humanism 2020?”; “Hunger” at Tel Aviv’s Center for Contemporary Art in 2005; and “Madonna and Narcissus” on Israeli artists, shown in 2006 at Warsaw’s National Museum.

In a 2006 interview, Aviv said she always wore a memento mori ring decorated with a skull because “that’s an important motif to see every morning.”

The funeral is being held on Thursday.

Tali Shani