The Embassy of the Netherlands has given a gift to Israel – its first-ever augmented reality mural, in Jaffa.
The mural is of a teapot, larger than life, painted by the international Dutch sensation Leon Keer.
At a ceremony on Thursday afternoon, the curtain was pulled off the stone wall, revealing the painting that had viewers “ooing and aahing.” The teapot, which was once in pieces, is glued back together using gold lacquer, which is a Japanese art form known as Kintsugi. The repaired teapot is meant to offer a message of endurance, showing that even if something seems broken and beyond repair, it can still be fixed and – made even stronger.
The mural was painted over the course of five days using water-based acrylic paints. While many street artists rely on spray paints, Keer repeatedly chooses to be environmentally conscious. Spray paint is a pollutant and saving the environment was a value the Dutch embassy wanted to support when they approved him for the job.
The piece is not just one dimension, however. It comes with augmented reality – where your smartphone can actually interact with the art piece itself. In order to be a part of the interactive experience, the viewer must scan the QR code next to the painting, download the exclusive “Leon Keer” app and then point the camera at the painting.
For this mural, when scanned at one angle, you’ll look into your phone screen and see the teapot tipping over and pouring a cup of tea with Hebrew and Arabic letters coming out in the virtual steam. With each different direction that you can view the painting in the app, you’ll experience different perspectives of the augmented reality teapot.
Keer is a pioneer in the augmented reality art space and started experimenting 10 years ago. Currently, he has 3D installations in Los Angeles, two in Sweden and now, for the first time, one in Israel. Each 3D painting has an extra coating of paint on top that acts as a marker to make the piece three-dimensional when paired with smartphone technology.
“I like mathematics, so in that matter, technology evolved into my art,” Keer said. “You see different cultures combined and don’t fight. They just have a cup of tea and solve their problems with that.”
The Deputy Ambassador of the Netherlands to Israel, Marieke Monroy, joined the unveiling and reception in lieu of ambassador Hans Docter, who joined an emergency meeting about Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
Monroy told The Jerusalem Post she is incredibly proud of the piece and specifically proud that it is located on one of Jaffa’s most bustling roads.
“We wanted to give something beautiful to the people of Tel Aviv and Jaffa,” Monroy said. “For us it has a meaning; if you look at the picture, you will see a teapot, which consists of all kinds of pots representing the different cultures in Israel. And there’s a little Dutch flavor with specific flowers that [the Dutch] would recognize.”
WHEN SHE’S not dealing art, curator and street art organizer Rachel Meijler works on bringing top-notch international art to Israel. Born in the Netherlands, Meijler came across the artist on Instagram and was able to get the Dutch embassy to commission the piece. She said the challenge in Israel is that there are few public funds that support art and have healthy budgets for it.
“In the Netherlands, it’s easy. There’s so much public funding for art and events. [There are] at least 20 funds you can write to – if you have a good project. The embassies have international money, so they’re in a better place to get enthusiastic about a project like this,” Meijler said.
Meijler chose Jaffa as the art location for the mural because last year, the peace was disturbed in Jaffa. After Hamas sent thousands of missiles toward Israel from the Gaza Strip in May 2021, fighting broke out among the Jewish and Muslim populations who live side-by-side in Jaffa. She said the message of repair is exactly what the port city needs.
The mural is located on Segev street in Jaffa at Kedumim Square. The augmented reality function will become available to the public Sunday or Monday, as it can take up to four days for a new painting to be recognized by the app. This special gift will be on display for at least a year, with lights to help spectators see it after dark.