The Museum of Israeli Art Ramat Gan (146 Aba Hillel Silver St.) reopened on Thursday, January 26, with an impressive selection of exhibitions. These include The Infinite Body curated by Adiya Porat, A-Ha! curated by Revital Silverman Grün and The Language of the Liminal jointly curated by Porat and Grün. The spectacular resurrection occurred after nearly a year of intensive negotiations between the city of Ramat Gan, artists and the Union of Art Curators.
Led by Elad Yaron, the union released a statement lauding the agreements reached following the scandal of having a painting by David Reeb, Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem of Sh*t, removed from HaMosad exhibition curated by Svetlana Reingold after Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen objected to it.
The pressure from the mayor led to pandemonium. Fellow artists stood alongside Reeb and asked to have their works covered in black cloth in solidarity against censorship. Reeb appealed to the court. Judge Kobi Verdi ruled the removal was done by the museum and not by the mayor so it cannot be seen as censorship.
Reingold, who burst into tears after a previous court decision led her to believe the artwork could be displayed and was then informed she must remove it, resigned.
Yaron believes that the agreements between the union and the museum reflect a powerful change in the position of curators, who, as part of a larger coalition of artists and critics, were able to hammer out a reasonable agreement to ensure such scandals will not repeat themselves.
However, art writer Naama Riba noted the said agreements do not include Shama-Hacohen.
“Everyone knows that if the mayor of any city wants to take an artwork down it is almost impossible to resist this pressure,” a well-known curator and artist told The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity.
Despite these grave concerns about artistic freedom, art lovers have some reasons to be cheerful. The new exhibitions were well received and a wide coalition of cultural bodies, among them, the union of museums, the forum of cultural institutions, the coalition of art institutions and the artist’s union, all made significant steps to boost the status of curators and artists and defend artistic freedom by co-signing the agreement.
The result remains to be seen regarding the 2014 contested sale of Valentin Serov’s 1910 painting Portrait of Maria Zeitlin for more than £8 million (NIS 33.3m.). The sale was criticized by former state comptroller Yosef Shapira who noted it was done against the expressed will of the donors who gifted the work to the Ramat Gan Museum of Russian Art. Will the sale finally show some benefit to the city and the larger Israeli public?
The sale was justified by city officials as needed to secure the funds to renovate the modern art museum, which just re-opened. Nearly a decade after the sale, the museum’s doors are now open. May art lovers pass them on for many years to come. (NIS 35 per ticket; for more information, visit www.rgma.org.il).
Collector Oded Shatil has reopened the doors of his apartment and invites art lovers to visit and explore his private collection, amassed over two decades and lovingly displayed in all the rooms, including the restroom and bedroom. “This work, for example,” Shatil explained while holding a small painting (1976 Sewn Torso by Yocheved Weinfeld), “was exhibited at the Debel Gallery, Jerusalem. It was a mythological gallery that put Jerusalem on the map of the local art scene and today only art lovers in their 80s remember it.”
With a white beard and an easy smile, Shatil is a generous host and gladly engages visitors in conversation. “This is what I hope to rekindle,” he told the Post, “a space for people to come, see works, drink wine on the balcony and gossip a little about the art scene.”
If you want to experience how it feels to have works by Uri Katzenstein and Dina Hoffman at home, this is your chance. Shown until Saturday, February 11. Opening hours are Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Private visits are possible after this date by calling ahead (054-281-5050) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Shatil will be delighted to show the collection to English speakers. (8 Lieberman St., apartment 8). I thank art writer Uzi Tzur for writing about the Shatil collection.
After visiting the Shatil Collection, walk a few steps to see The Idol, a massive hybrid skull created by Adi Nachshon and requested by curator Arie Berkowitz after it was originally shown at the Raw Art Gallery (3 Hameretz St.). The Idol sits pretty on top of Tel Aviv’s Artists House (9 Alharizi St.) where Aya Chowes now shows Path. A pleasant art installation with sound that might offer visitors some relief. Especially after they note vandals broke the head of one public statue by Avner Levinson following a recent mass protest.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17 – Attend a noon English discussion with We Crave Blood artist Noam Toran and curator Maya Bamberger at the aforementioned Raw Art Gallery (Shown until Saturday, March 25). Inspired by the personal history of Toran, who grew up in the Chihuahuan desert that stretches between Mexico and Texas, the installation means to explore “the staging Anglo-European civilizational reproduction and rebirth.”
NORTHERN NEGEV, LAHAV FOREST
Visit the opening of Interventions at the Museum of Bedouin Culture at 5 p.m. on Thursday, February 23. Curated by Liat Yehuda, the works shown are the result of a unique course offered to Jewish and Bedouin young people by artists Eytan Shouker and Rubah Al Farawneh.
The Bedouin youth study at Desert Stars, a Lahav-based leadership program, also includes options for women and those above the age of 20. The Jewish youth study at the Arabic department of Mevoot HaNegev High school at Kibbutz Shoval. This exhibition follows Clan and Commune, also curated by Yehuda, which closed at the beginning of the year.
The entrance to the forest is free. Opening hours of the museum are Sunday to Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To learn more about organized tours and precise details on how to drive to the museum, phone 08-991-3322 or visit: https://joealon.org.il.
The Palestinian Museum is located in Area B, which means Israelis cannot visit. Those who are citizens of other countries and speak Arabic well might enjoy attending a guided tour at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28.
Focused on the exhibition A People by the Sea: Narratives from the Palestinian Coast curated by Inass Yassin, this is a chance to explore the history of Acre and Jaffa from an Arab perspective. The exhibition includes works by Abed Abdi, an established Haifa artist and former art critic in the Arab press (Al-Ittihad), installation and performance artist Manar Zuabi, and artist and architect Dima Srouji.
Israelis can visit Srouji’s site: www.dimasrouji.com as well as the museum’s (www.palmuseum.org) with the hope that one day, they can step through its doors and be accepted. (Museum Street, off Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Street.)
On Sunday, February 5, Sotheby’s Israel opened an exhibition of current works by artists from the African continent. Curated by Joseph Awuah-Darko (Ghana) and titled Contemporary Redefined: Africa Today, the exhibition will be open until Friday, May 5.
During a press conference, the head of Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary African Art Department, Hannah O’Leary, said that it is impossible to dismiss a whole continent as fashion and pointed out private funding believes in current African art to the extent it sponsors museums and art institutions. One such case is the Zinsou Foundation, which is behind the first contemporary art museum in Africa, the Zinsou Foundation Museum of African Art, which opened in Ouidah, Benin, a decade ago.
“You can find everything in Africa,” she added, “from ceramics to photography.”
Awuah-Darko noted that during the COVID-imposed hiatus on art fairs, more and more people turned to the internet to find new art. This gave quite a boost to the interest in current art produced in the continent and the African diaspora.
This could be a starting point for Israeli collectors seeking to expand their collection, as the experience of diaspora is shared by both Jewish people and those who have their roots in Africa.
“The formation of a diaspora could be articulated as the quintessential journey of becoming,” curator Okwui Enwezor (Nigeria) said.
The managing director of Sotheby’s Israel, Sigal Mordechai, looking regal in her gold necklace, thanked the reporters and expressed her hope that thanks to the space she runs, more private collectors here would wish to share their collection with the public. (6 Rothschild Blvd, Tel Aviv).
• THE LOCAL art scene was heartbroken when news broke on social media on Monday that the Haifa studio of late artist Gershon Knispel was emptied out and many works by the late painter were placed in the street to be soaked in the pouring rain and thrown to the city dump.
The artist passed away five years ago and split his life between Brazil and Israel. He was one of the few artists here who did large-scale Socialist Realism works, among them, the massive 1953 painting, The Signing of the Acre Peace Petition.
Curator Belu-Simion Fainaru expressed his sorrow when he commented he felt great pain when facing the thought that here “there is no value to culture, art... and to collective memory.”
Haifa-based artist Abed Abdi shared photographs documenting the long history he and the artist shared. “You were giants together,” a mutual friend wrote, “and a giant you remain.”
Art Roundup is a monthly glance at some of the finest art exhibitions currently being shown across the country. Artists, curators and collectors are welcome to send pitches to email@example.com with “Art Roundup” in the email subject.