Aya Miron admits that, had she been consulted, she probably wouldn’t have chosen 1965 as the temporal basis for an exhibition. She notes however that, in the end, it all worked out quite happily.
Miron is the curator of the 1965 Today exhibition which opened at the Israel Museum last week.
The show is yet another slot in the museum’s ongoing jubilee events and, as Miron gladly admits, once she got into the thick of things she got a lot out of the exercise.
“Historically, for this country, years like 1948, 1967, 1973 are much more significant but, of course, the museum opened 50 years ago. I did a lot of research for this exhibition and I learned a lot from the work, and the results.”
The exhibition wall texts add much to the spectator experience, and a quote from Dr. William Sandberg, one of the museum’s first artistic advisers, sets an appropriate relevant contemporary tone.
“The museum is not a place of escape to the past,” he noted several decades back.
“Society is changing in every respect and we must remember this in our approach to contemporary art...The museum’s role is to help us feel equally at home in the present and in the past.”
As someone who remembers 1965, albeit as a child, many of the ready-made items on show certainly rang a bell. But the display is so well organized, and the products proffered in such an appealing manner, that even those who don’t have personal recollections of the era should be taken with the bright and breezy aesthetics of the mid-Sixties.
Miron clearly went for as wide a visual and artisanal spectrum as possible. There are furniture elements in there, as well as some blueand- white (Israeli made) clothes and fashion accessories which would not have looked out of place on Carnaby Street during the heyday of Swinging London, and a pack of El Al cigarettes. There are also a couple of motor scooters in the exhibition’s consumer section, including a white model with matching sidecar. “The motorbike was manufactured in Italy, but the sidecar was made in Israel,” Miron points out.
Back in the Sixties, Zionism was very much still the national catchphrase and Israel was not only geographically but also in terms of the product range on offer here quite distant from the West.
“There were a lot of things manufactured in Israel in those days,” says Miron.
“You see a lot of Hebrew in the logos, and on the labels.
That’s before everything was made in China. In 1965 there were a lot of things made by [fashion house] Maskit, and furniture made on Kibbutz Hazorea, and things made by [textile producer] Ata.”
Music is, of course, a neat fit for 1965 and the visitors to the exhibition can, if they wish, boogie to the sounds of The Beatles and some of the local pop and rock acts stars of the time. One of the emerging stars of 1965 was Jerusalem- born crooner Yehoram Gaon who, although he had been on the scene for several years by then, was just beginning to make a name for himself as a frontman. The cover of one of Gaon’s early solo albums is located above a fetching wooden radio-record player sideboard.
“This is from when he first became star,” explains Miron.
“When he was with the [early Sixties group] HaTarnegolim, that was like the Nahal [IDF] band style, very Israeli national.
This record came out just before he appeared in [musical movie] Kazablan, which made him a huge star.”
Part of Miron’s 1965 Today-generated learning curve was prompted by the collection of fine works of art she assembled for the exhibition.
“I contacted all the art collectors and all the museums in the country, and my only question was: ‘what works do you have from 1965?’ Some said they had a great work from 1964, and I had to insist that they look for something from 1965.”
And a fine array of exhibits Miron put together, too, local historical “insignificance” notwithstanding. There is now-86-year-old Yaacov Agam’s relatively work Staccato in there, which he created when he was 37. Avigdor Arikha produced his sensual abstract Forms II when he was a year younger than Agam, while Arie Aroch was a full 57 years old when he made his thought-provoking Table Top with a Léger Reproduction. Actually, the latter age designation is somewhat misleading.
“Aroch made this work, without the Léger Reproduction,” says Miron. The later addition refers to a work by French cubist and later pop artist Fernand Léger. “This work participated in the Venice Biennale in 1962,” Miron continues, “but Aroch felt it was incomplete. He worked on it over the next three years and finally felt it was complete with the reproduction.”
One of the most striking visual standouts in the arts section is the 2.3 m. high brass The Shepherd King sculpture by Itzhak Danziger, which the German-born artist produced at the age of 49. Danziger originally harbored grand designs for the concept.
“He took part in a competition for an outdoor artwork on Mount Herzl,” says Miron.
“Danziger planned this as a 27 m. work.”
The age-related data, says Miron, is an innovative idea which, she feels, adds a lot to the 1965 Today experience.
“It is interesting to see what stage the artist was at, of his or her life, when they made a particular work.”
Miron also decided to arrange the works in alphabetical order, according to the artists’ names.
“That takes the works out of their natural style contexts and creates new synergies.”
Other noted artists of the day in the 1965 Israel Museum mix include Dani Karavan, Michael Druks, Uri Lifschitz, Raffi Lavie and Yigal Tomarkin.
If you want to travel back in time, showing newsreels and home movies from the year in question generally do the trick, and the 1965 Today exhibition screen entertainment, which includes Geva Studios news slots and color homespun cine-camera films, manages that with aplomb.
It is surprising to see how little has changed over the past half-century.
For more information: (02) 670-8811 and www.imj.org.il.