A hidden treasure

An important exhibition at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art presents the work of Arthur Goldreich and Tamar de Shalit

AMOS GOLDREICH standing before his parents’ portraits. (photo credit: YANAI YECHIEL)
AMOS GOLDREICH standing before his parents’ portraits.
(photo credit: YANAI YECHIEL)
It is not often that one comes across a couple who have contributed so much to Israeli architecture and history, yet so little is known about their individual and collective work. This is the case with “Goldreich & De Shalit: A Retrospective,” the latest exhibition at the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art that highlights the works of South African-born architect, painter, teacher and freedom-fighter Arthur Goldreich (1929–2011) and his wife, the interior designer Tamar de Shalit (1932–2009).
From the 1950s through the 1990s, Goldreich and de Shalit pursued – together and apart – architecture, graphic and industrial design; textile, jewelry and fashion design; stage-set and costume design for the theater; drawing, painting, illustration and photography.
“From all aspects, it was a very unique collection because immediately I realized I got some kind of treasure. It deals with so many different things and with very important issues and stories about Israeli architecture and history,” says exhibition curator Zvi Elhyani.
Elhyani and co-curator Talia Davidi, together with Amos, the only child of Goldreich and de Shalit, spent over two years working on the exhibition. Through Amos, Elhyani was able to obtain Goldreich and de Shalit’s personal archive, which was stored in a wooden cabin in the backyard of their house in Herzliya Pituah that the couple used as a studio. They then began the long process of sorting through the material at the Israel Architecture Archive, which is founded and run by Elhyani, and is located in Tel Aviv’s Shalom Tower.
For Amos, who is also an architect and living in London, this exhibition has been an amazing journey of rediscovering who his parents were, as they were quite private in their lives. “One of the main reasons for having this exhibition is that there is so little known about them. For me, it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve rediscovered a lot of things. When you lose your parents, you start having questions,” says Amos.
It was also a journey of self-discovery for Elhyani, who had studied under Goldreich at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. “Arthur, who founded the architectural faculty at Bezalel in the mid-‘60s, established generations of architects and designers. He was a really influential teacher. I always thought of him as a teacher, I never knew he was a practicing designer and architect,” says Elhyani.
For both Amos and Elhyani, the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art was the most natural place for holding the exhibition, as they discovered that Goldreich and de Shalit did the interior design of the museum in the mid-1970s with famed Israeli architect Yaakov Rechter.
The exhibition space consists of 60 drawers of Goldreich and de Shalit’s original collection, which was stored at Elhyani’s archive in Tel Aviv. The drawers showcase the many projects the couple worked on, both independently and in numerous collaborations. The collection includes sketches, drawings, slides, photographs and even scarves designed by de Shalit.
“INSIDE THE drawers, it’s a whole world. The connections between the drawers work really well. It’s a kind of a stream of consciousness,” says Elhyani, who wanted to keep the space, very minimalistic and orderly.
South African-born Goldreich started out as a painter, designer and persecuted political activist who protested apartheid. In 1963, he was detained. His escape from prison, accompanied by extensive media coverage, was followed by his immigration to Israel, where he continued his anti-apartheid efforts, forming the Association of Israelis against Apartheid. Shortly after settling in Israel, he not only held solo exhibitions of his artwork, but was also involved in stage set design as well as the design of the Khan Theater in Jerusalem.
De Shalit was born into a very influential family who were among Herzliya’s founders. She studied art and design in 1950s London. On her return to Israel, she began designing for the famous fashion house Maskit, as well as modeling for them. She also took part in the design of the courtroom for the 1961 Eichmann trial in Jerusalem.
One of De Shalit’s biggest projects was working together with architect Nahum Zolotov on the interior of Yaarot Hacarmel, which was built originally for Holocaust survivors and is now the Carmel Forest Hotel and Spa. She was also involved in the interior design of the penthouse of Charles Clore at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.
Having met at the Central School of Art and Design in London in the mid-1950s, Goldreich and De Shalit were reunited in Israel in 1964. They were married two years later.
Together, the couple designed a number of kibbutzim dining halls and memorials. These included kibbutzim near Gaza such as Nahal Oz and Erez, as well as kibbutzim up North such as Ma’ayan Baruch. In 1967, Arthur and Tamar designed the furniture and did the interior design for the Shin Bet General Security Service headquarters in Tel Aviv. They were also involved in the planning and designing of hotels, including the Eshel Hotel in Herzliya and the Hilton in Tel Aviv.
Among the highlights of the exhibition are sketches of a house that Goldreich and De Shalit designed for the mayor of Gaza in the late 1970s. One of Amos’s strongest childhood memories is going to Gaza on weekends with his parents. “It was kind of a normal thing you did. I played with children there,” recalls Amos. The house, which still exists, is located in the city’s wealthy neighborhood of Rimal and is now the residence of Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan.
For Elhyani, the main aim of this exhibition is to recount the formerly unacknowledged role Goldreich and de Shalit played at key points in Israel’s architecture-and-design history in the second half of the 20th century. He believes that “as a historian of Israeli architecture, this history is so unwritten yet.”
A comprehensive bilingual book consisting of six essays written by various academics about the work of Goldreich and De Shalit will be published in November, toward the closing of the exhibition.
For more info on Goldreich & De Shalit: A Retrospective, visit www.herzliyamuseum.co.il