An award by any other name

Three finalists for the $10,000 Gottesdiener Art Prize for Young Artists exhibit their work at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Money and fame are in the midst for the three finalists of the prestigious 2008 Gottesdiener Art Prize for Young Artists. The winner will be awarded $10,000 and a solo exhibition at the Tel Aviv Art Museum. The runner-ups will share a joint exhibition at the museum and the Janet Asia and Charles and Evelyn Kramer Gallery. A winner is to be announced a month after the gallery's debut opening. "If I win, it will encourage me for my next exhibit," says finalist Gil Marco Shani. "It's not my first exhibition but I'm excited. Each exhibition is a test. Like with dancers, you have to train all the time." The prize money, he adds, will help to cover the cost of his work. Started in 1995 by German born Nathan Gottesdiener, the award has already benefited the lives of 13 Israeli artists including Yehudit Sasportas, who represented Israel in the 2007 Venice Biennale. In 2006, the competition's format was changed so that a jury selects three finalists who produce a joint exhibit. A judge who did not participate in the initial selection will choose a winner on May 4. For his contribution, Shani went the political route with Blue Paintings. The purpose of art, he claims, is to disturb and ask questions. To accomplish such aims, he delved into Israeli history for inspiration, using everything from pornographic sex to the armed forces. "I'm an image maker and a story maker as well," he says. Alternatively, fellow finalist Michal Helfman uses modern images to disturb her audience. In The Lesson she rotates the image of a ballet studio at a 90-degree angle, creating lewd illusions such as the ballet bar as a stripper pole, or that the wall-to-wall dance mirror is a ceiling mirror. "It's more psychedelic," Helfman says. "The idea was to reveal the inner connection between the elements." Currently, the three finalists' works will be shown in a shared exhibit by curator Ellen Ginton, which opens on March 24. Contestants described this publicity as more important to them than the prize money. In fact, they described the award as too modest a sum to create any drastic changes. "The prize money does help," says Maya Attoun, the remaining finalist, "but it doesn't help everything. I guess it will help pay the art bills." For Attoun's portion of the exhibit, she merged anatomy and decorative functions to create Between Dog and Wolf., which deals primarily with organic, biological and artificial imagery, relating back to a theme of sound and rhythm. Visit the Nathan Gottesdiener Foundation's website ( for more information about the finalists and their exhibition, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, (03) 607-7000. Opens on March 24 for museum members and patrons and the following day to the public.