Not for Bottle-cap Collectors

Reading this new magazine is like peeking through the opening in a fence at a party to which you haven't been invited.

Mechira Pumbit (Auction), Israeli magazine for Collectors and Art, edited by Yehuda May, No. 56, July, 2007, published by Mechira Pumbit, 106 pages, NIS 48

This is a magazine of the sort that is printed on thick glossy paper and looks like any magazine that is intended for wealthy hobbyists. Anyone can be a collector, anyone can buy a small pastel picture even for $46 (I found it on the price list) but there is collecting and then there is collecting. Collecting bottle-caps is not like collecting vintage cars and it appears that car collectors will find greater interest in this magazine than bottle-cap collectors. Thus, reading Mechira Pumbit is like peeking through the opening in a fence at a party to which you haven't been invited. Nevertheless it is possible to learn something here, says the voyeur to himself.

I, for example, didn't know how complicated and multifaceted a walking stick could be until I read the charming article by Aryeh Gilai. Ostensibly it is a humdrum, almost two-dimensional object. In fact, it is a creature that has a complex anatomy. "It is possible to place it under one's armpit and feel like an English general," reports the writer delightedly, but then he abandons us, helplessly, before the huge dispute among experts as to the desirable length: "Exactly one-half an individual's height plus five centimeters." Or: "The height [from the ground] to the fold of skin at the wrist."

This magazine does not kid around. Its title testifies to its contents: It is aimed at people who trade in their hobbies and not only delight in the sight of them. The magazine opens straight to the point with five pages of small photographs in which the top people in the Israeli economy, its magnates and the folks who surround them at exhibition openings, smile at the camera. The approach is direct and not coy. These are the people, say the photographs; this is what they are interested in and these are the sums they pay. In the magazine there is information that apparently is essential for every collector or dealer. Catalogs and price lists (I have never seen such a large aggregate of Hasidic rabbis and lulavs anywhere else) and alongside this information there are articles that will be of interest to people who are just interested in art and don't want necessarily to collect it.

The magazine editor's direct approach is evident in the selection of the writers. There aren't critics here who turn up their noses, but rather people who gladly blow their own horns. Prof. Mordecai Omer, the director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, writes about the Mark Rothko exhibition showing at the museum. This is an informative article, written with a clarity that is devoid of the mannerisms that sometimes characterize art criticism. Omer reports with appropriate dryness on stations in the artist's life and presents the work that was done at each period.

Another curator, Dr. Rona Sela, writes about art and politics in the wake of an exhibition she curated to mark 40 years of occupation. The art-lover who has little knowledge always imagines that interpreters of art try to be more decisive than the artists themselves in revealing their intentions. Dr. Sela does not risk wild guesses when it comes to David Reeb and David Tartakover, in whose works the intention is sometimes explicitly formulated in words. When it comes to Moshe Gershuni, one has to rely on Sela who exchanged a word or two with the artist before she decided that in the enigmatic inscription "All the soldiers" there is an explicit political statement.

On page 69, there is a surprise. Suddenly a new section of the magazine begins: "Collecting News." Its own cover price is stated and its contents are not included in the table of contents of Mechira Pumbit [although its inclusion is noted on the cover of the magazine]. "Collecting News" can be separated from Mechira Pumbit only with an ax or very strong scissors. Truly strange. But the amazement does not interfere with enjoying articles about African masks or Rosenthal porcelain. Presumably there is some commercial interest lurking here as well (a gallery for selling African objets d'art quite by chance publishes an advertisement next to the article).

But this isn't as crude as the two articles by Dr. Dalia Hecker Orian. The first article is about a painting by artist Aharon Czygel: "The painting reflects the artist's ability to transform an everyday subject into an exciting work of art" (the price of this work: $2,300). Another article by the same writer directs the reader to the Internet site of artist Israel Ziv. For a moment it seems as though she is losing her mind when she asserts that Ziv "strides confidently" in the footsteps of Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse.