Anyone who passes through the tight back alleys of Florentine knows they are the heart of the Tel Aviv graffiti scene. It is fitting then that the city’s new Street Art Gallery – showcasing the creations of young artists working within the urban setting – has chosen to locate itself right at the intersection of it all: the corner of Abarbanel and Yedidya Frenkel streets.
It’s October 15, the opening night of the exhibition, and the neighborhood is teeming with people – many streaming into the small gallery with high ceilings, once a carpentry shop – to check out the opening night exhibition, “Temporary Crew.” Near the entrance, one young man is studying a large photograph on the wall as his friends talk nearby. “Hey,” he calls to them, “it’s by Know Hope.”
In addition to Know Hope (aka Adam Yekutiel), the 13 up-and-coming artists showcased at the event include names that those who follow the Tel Aviv street graffiti scene are sure to recognize – Foma, Dede, Wonky, Latzi, Untay, Signor Gi, Jack tml, Dioz, Maya Gelfman, Nitzan Mintz, Adi Sand and Oren Fisher.
It’s an opening that has been anticipated by those with an appreciation for urban art, as Tel Aviv – which until now did not have a gallery dedicated to street art – follows in the footsteps of other metropolises such as Berlin, Paris, New York and Vienna. The show and the gallery have been about four months in the planning.
Eli Edri, owner of the Under 1000 gallery (which is just down the street) and a co-owner of Street Art Gallery, explains that the location of the gallery and the building chosen were just as important as the work to be displayed inside.
“For months, we racked our brains, thinking about how we would find a home for this street art gallery,” he says. “The trick was to leave the street, to find a place that would look like the street, but where we would be able to show the artists’ work. That balance was the hardest thing to find.”
When they walked into the carpentry shop, with its walls that had lain untouched for years and its large windows which let in daylight and moonlight, Edri says they knew they had found what they were looking for.
The gallery’s other partner is renowned French fashion and street photographer Daniel Siboni. He, like Edri, has had his hand in the gallery business before, in Los Angeles and in Paris, and says his main motivation is to give young street artists a stage.
“I saw when I was in Los Angeles 10 years ago that many arts started to be in the street, and they were more sophisticated than just tagging.”
He realized, he says, that something was happening.
“When I was in Paris 30 years before, I had a teacher, and he told us – ‘When the art is in the street, it is because the world changed.’” Opening night is in full swing, and the gallery is packed – an estimated 2,000 attendees will have streamed through its doors by night’s end. An eclectic playlist, including selections chosen by participating artists, plays at high volume. In a corner, glasses of wine flow. The younger set is heavily represented in the audience – a mix of urban chic, bohemian, punk – several green-haired women – a few senior citizens.
The crowd is reflective of the city, the crossover of alternative and mainstream, in essence – a reflection of what street art has become.
As Edri explains, “Not all street artists are supposed to be in the mainstream, but street art is supposed to be in the mainstream.” And as he discusses the line between art and vandalism, between alternative and mainstream – one look around the walls of the gallery and it would be evident even to the art newbie that street art has evolved far past the days of tagging and graffiti. The exhibition includes posters, photographs, sketches, installations, stickers and more...
and people are buying, taking their favorite pieces home, to hang on the wall.
Perhaps a street artist can relate to the audience’s desire to hang a picture on the wall. One of the goals of the gallery, in addition to artist promotion, according to gallery curator and participating artist Nitzan Mintz – is to provide safe haven for works that on the street frequently find themselves erased by municipal authorities the next day.
When asked if she ever lost a work and felt regret, Mintz says: “There was one piece that I didn’t even have time to record. When you do something at night and then you expect to photograph it in the morning, it’s possible it might not be there.” She adds, “After it’s recorded, I don’t really care what will happen to it, as long as I have something of mine that is just mine, like a photograph, forever.”
Edri and Siboni both say they hope that in addition to promoting street art to the Israeli public, and Israeli street artists on the international level, they hope to bring international street artists to Israel. The gallery also plans to offer street art tours in the Tel Aviv area.
And, like the artists they showcase, both Siboni and Edri are passionate about what they are doing. As Edri puts it, art is a basic, like air or water.
“My dream is like Henry Ford with his car,” he explains. “I believe that everybody needs to have art in his house – everybody. There is not a person that does not have a car, and it should be the same thing here, because there is not a person that doesn’t have a heart in his soul.”
The exhibition ‘Temporary Crew’ runs through October 29 at the Street Art Gallery, 54 Abarbanel Street, in the Florentine neighborhood, Tel Aviv. For more information, visit the Street Art Gallery page on Facebook, or call (03) 652-6061.