Koresh Gallery brings art to the people

A living and breathing street-level space beyond museum walls sparks and shares creative output.

Internationally acclaimed artist Tamar Hirschfield turns mundane office equipment into intriguingly aesthetic artifacts.  (photo credit: COURTESY KORESH 14)
Internationally acclaimed artist Tamar Hirschfield turns mundane office equipment into intriguingly aesthetic artifacts.
(photo credit: COURTESY KORESH 14)
Renowned Serbian performance-conceptual artist Marina Abramović once posited that “Art must be life; it must belong to everybody.” As such, it follows that the fruit of one’s creative endeavor should be as accessible as possible to the general populace, on a physical, geographical and social level. That is a mind-set fully embraced by Vered Hadad – and duly put into daily practice, now, for close to 13 years.
In 2007, newly graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Hadad found herself facing an existential conundrum.
“You spend four years in a cloistered world,” she says. “You are taught there, you are provided with materials and places to exhibit your work and you get feedback on a constant basis.” But life in the outside world proved to be a very different kettle of fish.
Hadad may have been a little lost in terms of professional creature comforts, but she somehow sensed where she needed to be.
“I moved into an apartment in this building after my degree,” she says. The location in question is 14 Koresh Street in the grimier patch of downtown Jerusalem. The address eventually gave its name to the art gallery Hadad founded and has served, throughout, as its director and chief curator.
“Not one gallery called me after I finished Bezalel. There was absolutely nothing happening. I suddenly woke up to the fact that life outside Bezalel was very different,” Hadad recalls.
Rather than sitting around, moping and waiting for the phone to ring, Hadad sprang into action. She missed the warmth and support of her time as a student and decided to try to replicate that out on civvy street.
“I’d roam around the city looking for an alternative space, to create a place where people could meet up, to reproduce the experience of dialogue [in Bezalel], and a place where people could exhibit.”
Hadad is clearly a community-minded spirit, and was not just looking to further her own incipient arts career, even though that would have been a perfectly logical move for a recent graduate to make.
“Yes, I wanted to find a place where I could display my work, but I didn’t think it was interesting for me to focus just on myself.”
She is conscious of the overriding need of the vast majority of her counterparts, to look inward rather than consider what might be best for the greater good.
“I know that artists mostly concentrate just on themselves and their work, and they find it difficult to move away from that insular approach. I’m not like that at all. Yes, sometimes, I like to get compliments and feedback, but that’s not my issue. So, maybe, in that respect I’m not a true artist,” she chuckles.
Then again, ultimately, the gallery was the result of Hadad taking a look at her own environs, in a physical home base sense, rather than from an egocentric viewpoint.
“It’s like with all the good stories. One day I came back from one of my outings to look for a work space, and I suddenly thought, why not have it here, in this building?” The spot where Hadad envisaged the new domain for creative pursuit was right there in front of her every day.
AND SO it came to pass. The outdoor ground-level expanse between the building’s support pillars soon hosted a grand opening event, with all kinds of artists from a wide range of disciplines, unfurling their work in a 12-hour one-day program.
“This building really spoke to me, right from the start,” Hadad explains. “As soon as I took that on board, I spoke to two other women artists from my class at Bezalel and we put together a major event in just one month. We called it the Koresh Campaign. It really was a campaign,” she laughs. “It was great fun and really successful. I think that was the most formative event that ever took place in this building. There was performance and video and all kinds of interactive stuff going on. With some of the things, you couldn’t really tell what the work of art was, and what it wasn’t.”
That delicate interface between artistic reflections of life and life itself, is evident in much of the activities and exhibitions that have taken place at the Koresh 14 Artspace over the years. Hadad, unlike many of her fellow former students, was not looking to hot-tail it over to Tel Aviv to take advantage of lower rents and greater employment opportunities. She sees the gallery as a vehicle for benefiting her surroundings and offering the city some uplifting, colorful, intellectually stimulating and energizing visual sustenance.
“I think that opening event [in 2007] was an important event in the Jerusalem domain,” she says, adding that she and her pals ran the starter without any official helping hand. “The municipality was not involved. We were really subversive,” she laughs.
Hadad et al may not have received any support from the local powers that be, but people closer to home were more than happy to muck in and grant them carte blanche.
“The building tenants’ representative was great. He was haredi – a Breslav Hasid – and he allowed us to do what we wanted. He didn’t ask if there was going to be any nudity and that sort of thing.”
The same collaborative gent helped to point Hadad in the direction of an interior space for her gallery enterprise.
“He showed me an unused space below, in the lower part of the building,” says Hadad. “That was great. I felt like I’d discovered a gold mine!”
The gallery moved into yet another space, its current home, in 2012. Hadad says she was drawn to the building by what she calls “its beautiful ugliness.” In fact, you could say the same of many of the buildings in the neighborhood. Walking down Koresh Street or Yanai Street or Shushan Street, you can quickly deduce that the municipality is not looking to invest too much of its residents’ council taxes in the area. Dilapidation and an air of ungroomed dustiness seem to be the order of the day. But, dig a little deeper and you are likely to discover some delightful – almost surreptitious – architectural gems, and gradually a sense of intimacy and humaneness makes its presence felt.
HADAD WAS keen to harness a feeling of togetherness from the get go, and to bring art to the people, and the ordinary Jerusalemite to the art.
“There is this genuine encounter with art in everyday life. It’s not like making a special trip to a gallery or a museum in order to experience art. You come through this area and you actually bump into art. Every time someone tells me they just happened on the gallery, I am so happy. That is a true experience.”
“It also makes art accessible to people who never visit galleries or museums,” notes Dvir Shakked, curator of the Best Interest exhibition, which opens at Koresh 14 tomorrow evening, at 8 p.m. The new show, which will run until March 19, feeds off the writings of 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant and, in particular, his 1790 tome Critique of Judgment.
“In the book, Kant says there should be no personal interest in an aesthetic object, otherwise it’s not pure aesthetics” Shakked explains. “So, for instance, he says a chair can’t be aesthetic if we sit on it and use it. You can’t say it is a work of art.”
Inter alia, the exhibition features works by internationally acclaimed conceptual artist Tamar Hirschfeld, David Duvshani, Bezalel teacher Karam Natour, Russian-born poet and visual artist Nadia Adina Rose and photographer Yair Barak. The showing takes in a broad sweep of readings of the Kantian approach to beauty, with some whimsical twists on the pragmatic-aesthetic divide also in the layout.
Over the years, the art space has hosted all kinds of events, from dance shows, performance art, readings and even some parties. That suits Hadad’s socially inclusive ethos to a T.
“We are struggling to establish a fixed community,” she says. “In this building, people come and go quite regularly. So we look at what entails a community, and how we can create a framework for a transient community.”
Mind you, that open attitude does come with a price.
“There was a Hanukkah party here for a bunch of students, and I stayed here until midnight to make sure nothing was broken,” she laughs.
Hadad also proudly notes the gallery’s cross-border appeal, and a pretty impressive roll call of partners in creative and exhibition crime, noting a student from the Sam Spiegel Film School who wrote an entire script there. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone used this space for a film location sometime,” she muses.
“We have had [internationally renowned translator] Shiri Shapira, who lives in the building, come down here in her slippers to write her doctoral thesis. And there was a student from the Sam Spiegel Film School who wrote an entire script here. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone used this space for a film location sometime.”
WHILE THE togetherness, and mutual support, line of thought is central to Hadad’s overview of life and how things should run at Koresh 14, she says she does not dictate to her exhibitors what they should do in the art space.
“I don’t try to fit everything into the same [philosophical] slot. The artists bring their own view of life and art here.”
In addition to the motley slew of local artists in the gallery bio, Koresh 14 has also attracted a number of people from further afield.
“We have had artists exhibiting here from Berlin, Leipzig, Istanbul,” says Hadad. “And there will be an exhibition by an Austrian artist in December,” Shakked adds. “We hope that this will continue, that we will collaborate with institutions abroad.”
One can but applaud the efforts of Hadad, Shakked et al, in providing a quality living and breathing street-level home for art in a tenement building far away from the bright lights of the swankier climes of the art world. You may never see a Kandinsky, a Hockney or a Kiefer hanging on its walls, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Koresh 14 will stick to its welcoming, social, warm and open approach to art – and life.
For more information: (054) 559-3714 and www.koresh14.com/