Art springs eternal at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

In recent years, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has spoiled its audience with fascinating exhibitions. A conversation with the museum's chief curator reveals more big things to come.

 Mira Lapidot. (photo credit: GABRIEL BAHARLIA)
Mira Lapidot.
(photo credit: GABRIEL BAHARLIA)

In recent years, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has spoiled its audience with fascinating exhibitions, such as retrospectives of Kusama and Alexander Calder; My Name Is Maryan (Pinkas Bursztyn); the works of Zadok Ben David and Urs Fisher; and currently on display, the artwork of Erwin Wurm. 

With such an eclectic range of past exhibitions, what selections can we expect to see this spring at TAMA?

The museum presents about 20 exhibitions a year, and every season there are between seven to nine exhibitions on display. For this spring, TAMA is preparing a delightful menu, offering visitors some delectable visual and intellectual fare.

In May, the museum is hosting Israel’s first retrospective of modernist master Alberto Giacometti, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. 

In mid-June, the museum will feature a video installation by Ira Eduardovna titled The Iron Road. In the film, the artist goes back to the 1990s to tell the story of her family’s immigration from Uzbekistan: the night train to Moscow and the subsequent journey to Israel. In this beautifully filmed video, she directs her family and other actors in the recreation of that venture.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art (credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv Museum of Art (credit: Courtesy)

This installation resonates Vera Vladimirsky's photography exhibition, which touches on Vladimirsky’s childhood emigration experience from Ukraine, through a gentle exploration of interiors – here and there. These two different manifestations are a beautiful "prologue" of sorts to the upcoming exhibition of the Emilia and Ilya Kabakov in the summer. Kabakov, who began working in the 60s and 70s in the Soviet Union, is one of the most interesting artists addressing some of the pressing issues of our time – freedom of the mind, freedom of expression - and what will remain of our time. It is a major exhibition of their work and will create a one-of-a-kind experience. 

Mira Lapidot is the chief curator of TAMA. In this interview, she talks about the dynamics of working with significant works of art. 

You say that different exhibitions resonate with each other and match within a bigger picture of what is on view at the museum. As TAMA’s chief curator, what are some of the secrets of your work? 

As the chief curator, in a way, I curate other curators, so my job entails thinking about the museum’s entire program and a "balancing act" between solo shows and group shows, exhibitions focusing on Israeli art, and others showcasing Modern or contemporary art and artists. Working with living artists – Israeli or international – is quite intense and usually involves an intensive dialogue with them. Another important aspect is initiating or supporting research, which expands our understanding of Modernism and its legacy. Such was the case with Maryan, which introduced this amazing artist and his extraordinary oeuvre to the public and reintegrated him to the narrative of 20th-century art.  

In regard to this spring at TAMA, what is in store?

May is the tail end of My Name is Maryan run as well as the fantastic trio of Israeli artists – Guy Ben Ner's thoughtful and playful retrospective, Drora Domini, and hila Toony Navok in remarkable sculptural manifestations. Erwin Wurm's Away at Home and So Moving in our Family Gallery are a "call for action" and participation examining our relationship to sculpture, objects, and our own bodies. 

We have also recently opened a new iteration of Material Imagination – our Israeli art collection galleries, looking back at our history as well as the tumultuous current moment in Israel. 

In addition to everything else I mentioned, we will also open Roni Taharlev, the 2022 winner of the Haim Shiff Prize for Figurative–Realist Art, exploring the traditional subject matter in a new way, as well as more experimental group exhibition titled Speaking Tungues about the human voice in its most literal sense as well as the political one, which I believe will speak to a younger audience involved in music, performance and activism. 

The program is very rich and diverse. What is the age profile of the TAMA audience?

It is highly varied. There is a very devoted and engaged audience of older people; then young people who have discovered that there is always something interesting to see at the museum (drawn to the strong performance program)); and it ends with children, who come with their school or their family. TAMA has also become a popular location on the tourist map. In the past year, we had 1.1 million visitors, which is extraordinary!

That is indeed very impressive. 

We try to engage our loyal audience. Our aim is really about being very involved with promoting Israeli art, for both local and international visitors. The Director of the museum, Tania Coen–Uzzielli, and I constantly think about how to reach new audiences to the museum. 

My experience of the museum life is that people are looking to see themselves represented in some way. So I think that if we are seeking new audiences, we need to think about our programming in new ways. To that end, for example, we now have a new educational program for Arabic-speaking visitors, and that is very important to us. 

This report was originally published in The Jerusalem Post's spring supplement of TAMA.