Galia Yahav, Haaretz Art Critic Who Took 'Nonpolitical Art' Head-on, Dies at 48

As a feminist, creative artist and critic, Yahav often expressed herself politically. 'Taking the stand that you don’t have any ideology is a crime, in my opinion,' she would say.

Galia Yahav in 2006.
Tali Shani

Galia Yahav, an art critic for Haaretz, died on Sunday of cancer. She was 48.

Yahav was born in Tel Aviv and had a bachelor’s degree in art, studied criticism at the Camera Obscura photography school, and earned a master’s degree in the Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

She began her career as an artist at the start of the 1990s. Her work dealt mostly with feminism and gender issues. Among her most well-known works was “Honey Pastrami or Love Archive,” displayed in 1998 at the Ami Steinitz Gallery, in which she shared an archive of memories from 52 loves and lovers, and “Blind Spot,” a 1999 video displaying acts of masturbation filmed in a home setting.

In 1997 Yahav curated an exhibition in the wake of the massacre in Qana in Lebanon, in which over 100 people were killed in an Israel Defense Forces artillery shelling during Operation Grapes of Wrath. In 2000 she curated the exhibit “The Disaster of Love” at the Art Institute in Ein Harod.  She curated dozens of other exhibits at the Avni Institute of Art and Design gallery in Tel Aviv, the Line 16 Gallery and other spaces. Among the more outstanding were “Who would Anne Frank have voted for?” a group exhibit from 2003 at Line 16; “Gaza as a love gesture and travel blessing,” an exhibit at the Minshar School  of Art gallery following the Gaza disengagement in 2005; and “Redemption through the sewers,” a group exhibit displayed at the Shafdan water purification plant in 2010.

She launched her career as a critic writing in the “Studio” art magazine, where she was also deputy editor. One of the editions she edited which was well received was about pornography and gender issues. She also edited the art section of “Time Out Tel Aviv.” In September 2011 Yahav was named the Haaretz art critic, a job she held until her death.

Her writing and art work reflected a great deal of political involvement and clear agendas which also reflected her demands of those she criticized.

In an interview with Haaretz’s Eli Armon Azulay in 2010, before she worked for the paper, Yahav said: “You must admit, I am firstly influenced by the tradition of resistance or at least a concept of conflict. I’m a political person and that is my prism, with all that pertains to language, culture and art history.”

She also said in that interview: “I oppose the supposed neutral position of tabula rasa. Taking the stand that you don’t have any ideology is a crime in my eyes. When you say ‘I’m neutral,’ I immediately try to figure out who pulled out their checkbook and who cries alone at night. It’s no secret that I think some artists are better than others and that there are artists I admire and those I consider as dull, the art of capitalists, establishment art. What does an artist get up in the morning for if not to advance a statement or an agenda? To earn an income?”

Yahav is survived by her partner, artist Yoram Kupermintz, her parents and two sisters.