Bullish - and Tasteless - on the Boulevard

The immediate question upon viewing the ugly collection of sculptures of bulls that has been installed along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard is- what did we do to deserve this visual assault?

What did we do to deserve this visual assault? That is the immediate question upon viewing the ugly collection of sculptures of bulls that has been installed along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. After the penguins, the dolphins and the lions in Jerusalem, the stock exchange is taking its turn. Now the question is which animal will be the focus of the next wave of tasteless artwork that big companies will employ for cheap advertising.

"This unique project expresses the connection between the stock exchange and the leading Israeli companies that are traded there," explained Ronit Harel Ben Ze'ev, senior vice president at the exchange, in a press release.

It is unclear why this connection needed to be expressed, and in public, no less. If the public good had been the motivating factor behind this project, its combined budget - NIS 1.7 million - could have been used, for example, to build a permanent sculpture that could even have included playground equipment for children. For this is essentially what the bulls have become.

Israel's largest companies, including IDB Holdings, Elbit Systems, Strauss-Elite and Partner, get advertising for a paltry sum (if they had underwritten it, it would have been much costlier) and are also trying to portray themselves as contributing to the public good "via an artistic street installation that is freely accessible for the public's enjoyment," in the words of the press release.

It seems that the public's impression of the quality of any artwork installed in the city is minimal at best, and there is a mistaken feeling that this is actually art that has some value. In practice, it is a project that is no more than a well-worn gimmick that lacks any artistic worth. From a cultural perspective, this is the glorification of consumerism as a supreme value. After all, each of the works represents a company or corporation. Whereas in the past sculptures of various rulers were installed in city squares and along boulevards, now the new rulers are presented as bulls (the mythological association, starting with the Minotaur and ending with Zeus dressed as a bull out to conquer Europe springs to mind).

The contribution of this project to the world of art is negligible in every respect. Most of the participants in it are not first-class artists, and it is doubtful if any of their careers will be boosted by their participation here.

By the way, Gitam Porter-Novelli, the project's public relations company, sends out photos of the artwork without crediting the artist, including only the name of the company that ordered it. As for the NIS 1,500 payment to the artists for each bull, one can only agree with Gitam's definition of this payment as "symbolic."