Citing 'Dictatorship,' Israeli Artist Wants His Work Removed From the Knesset

Dani Karavan, who designed the wall that serves as the backdrop to those addressing parliament, says he has repeatedly asked that his art be removed until the Knesset reflects 'the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.'

The Knesset plenum, with the wall designed by Dani Karavan behind the speaker's podium.
Emil Salman

Artist and sculptor Dani Karavan, who in 1966 designed the wall that constitutes the backdrop for speakers in the Knesset chamber in Jerusalem said on Wednesday that he has repeatedly asked that the wall be removed or covered until the Knesset, in his view, reflects the spirit of the country's Declaration of Independence.

"There have been several works that I made that were commissioned for public spaces and they belong to the sites, to their landscapes, to their environment, to their role," he told the Herzliya Conference, but he added: "[When it comes to] the wall in the Knesset, I sometimes am ashamed that I made it, and I have asked a number of times that it be moved, or covered with a tapestry, until the Knesset expresses the Declaration of Independence."

In the course of his remarks, delivered as part of a panel discussion on political art, Karavan made reference to a report on Wednesday that Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is demanding that cultural institutions that receive government funding submit a declaration stating whether they have held performances in West Bank settlements, the Negev and the Galilee. The declaration requirement is an effort to implement the ministry's new policy of cutting financial support for institutions that do not perform in these areas.

"I read this morning in the newspaper that the Culture Minister is threatening anyone who doesn't appear in the settlements that they won't get funding. What is this if not a dictatorship?" he exclaimed.

Reacting to Karavan's remarks, another panelist, choreographer Ohad Naharin, cautioned against overreacting. "Miri Regev came and will go. The government came and will go, and that's not an opinion. It's a fact. Art is not dependent on money. We create without dependence on money. You need to remember that the government is not the one that makes it possible and will make it possible to be who we are and to create."

Last week Karavan received the National Award of Culture 2016 Of the National Council of Culture and the Art for his contribution to Catalan culture, whose past recipients include Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. Karavan, the first non-Spaniard to receive it. It was awarded for "Passages," a sculptural installation he created as a tribute to the German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin. The work was created between 1990 and 1994 in Portbou, where Benjamin killed himself 50 years earlier. The boardwalk below the memorial was named for Karavan.