A woman's work

A new exhibition at Ticho House, which includes works by Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani, offers surprising views of the fairer sex.

woman thinking 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
woman thinking 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As you enter the new exhibition at Ticho House a piece of video art greets you. It's of a young girl, unnervingly still, turning in place as if on an upright rotisserie. Her hair is plaited and her dress is old-fashioned. Her face, impassive and remote, reveals nothing. The A4-sized piece is by 44-year-old Belgian artist Michael Borremans and it forms part of "A Room of Her Own," an exhibition that opened this week in Jerusalem's city center. It isn't, perhaps, what you might expect in a Ticho House exhibition, a satellite campus of the Israel Museum that has traditionally housed less avant-garde work. But then the works of Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, all of whom are represented here, may surprise you too. "When I first asked for these major pieces, I thought the [Israel] museum would definitely say no," says Tania Sirakovitch, curator of the exhibition. "When they said yes, and within a day, I was in shock." Sirakovitch envisioned an exhibition that would present contemporary portraits of women as individuals. Not as Madonnas, not as accessories of men, "not necessarily as things of beauty," she explains. The first room displays portraits from different artistic eras that have one thing in common: they are all close-up portraits of women's faces, mostly from bust up, that have little or nothing to distract the viewer from the sitter's physiognomy. Cheek by jowl are Cindy Sherman, Picasso, a little-seen Soutine. Perpendicular to them are pieces by Matisse, Modigliani and Renoir. The arrangement is anything but dull, anything but predictable. "It's important to me to put pieces from different eras together and challenge the viewer to see common threads," says Sirakovitch, associate curator of modern art at the Israel Museum. "I wanted to surprise the viewer." Upstairs, in the room that formerly served as Anna Ticho's studio and salon, the exhibition continues with portraits of women in domestic settings. Bonnard, Vuillard, and a more contemporary print by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler are all represented. "In many of the 20th century pieces you can see bourgeoisie aspirations," explains Sirakovitch. "The way the women are holding books which aren't Bibles, sewing for pleasure [not industry]." The exhibition continues with Anna Ticho's works from the permanent collection. These are also of women, and some show the little-seen influence of Klimt, Kokoschka and the German school of art. According to Timna Seligman, curator of Ticho House, the transition between the temporary and permanent exhibitions is natural: portraits of women, by who else but a woman. "A Room Of Her Own" is part of the Israel Museum's greater plan to raise the Ticho House's cultural profile. This is particularly crucial now that the museum is undergoing huge renovations and hanging space there is severely limited. Before "Room," an exhibition by contemporary Israeli artist Gal Weinstein was held at Ticho House, and before that, one by Orit Hofshi. "Look around you in the center of town. Within 10 minutes of Ticho House is the Musrara gallery, The Print Workshop, Agrippas 12, Barbur, The Artists House. There is so much Israeli art, so much contemporary art here. "There's a real renaissance of art in the center of the city, and we're part of that. We should have a leading role," says Seligman. In order to prepare for this role, Ticho House has undergone considerable renovations both inside and out, and the security has been significantly tightened especially for coming exhibitions. (Of course, the fact that there has been relative calm on the security front on a local and national level means that an exhibition such as this is feasible. Seligman admits that a major exhibition on this scale would not have been conceivable five years ago, however tight the security.) "Room" opens the first of four exhibitions by young female curators that will be displayed in Ticho House. Opening in late February is Aya Miron's exhibition "Other People's Homes" that will showcase contemporary Israeli photographers' conceptions of architectural spaces; an exhibition on Israeli animation follows. Currently, around 2,000-3,000 visitors pass through Ticho House each month. Seligman hopes that these exhibitions will significantly raise that number. "There's a desire to offer something really attractive here to the general public. The exhibitions are free and they're very accessible. We want people to come, and to come again; to make it worthy of a repeat visit," says Seligman. James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum concurs: "Changes such as these, [when much of the main campus is closed] open your eyes to the quality of your resources... This exhibition inaugurates a new era for Ticho House."