Getting fresh with art

The second annual Fresh Paint street fair sets out to make art accessible to the general public.

Sharon Shafir 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sharon Shafir 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you're one of those people who think art is the exclusive domain of the well-heeled, Fresh Paint should help you reconsider. The second annual Fresh Paint arts fair will be held on the renovated site of the first train station to be built in this part of the world, in the Manshiah district wedged between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, between March 18 and March 21. And there will be plenty of affordable works of art available from among hundreds of exhibits at the Bank Leumi-sponsored event. The more conveniently priced works include no less than 1,500 Secret Postcards. "The cards are all the same size, measuring 10 cm. x 15 cm.," explains the fair's director Sharon Tellinger Shafir. "We sent the cards to lots of different artists, some well known - like Dudu Geva and Mihal Ne'eman - and some unknown." Shafir said the postcards will be bought solely on the basis of the buyers' impression of the picture on the card. "They will only find out whether they've acquired something by a celebrated artist after they've bought the postcard. Some might be worth quite a lot today, because they are by famous artists, and others might gain in value over the years," Shafir continues. There is a threefold bottom line to Fresh Paint: making art accessible to the general public, providing artists with badly needed exhibition space and putting something back into the community. "The proceeds from the sale of the postcards will go to the Tel Aviv Museum," Shafir says. "The money will be used to provide scholarships for youths from socioeconomically disadvantaged families on arts excellence programs." And we're not talking small change here, either. "Last year we raised NIS 160,000 for the program," says Shafir. Besides the scholarships, the fair will also contribute to the Jaffa-based Nalaga'at Deaf-Blind Theater Company. Three artists have made a total of 50 etchings which will be sold and the proceeds will be given to Nalaga'at. "We felt etchings were appropriate, because you can touch and feel them even if you can't see them," Shafir explains. The idea for the fair was first raised in May 2007, by Shafir and co-founder and art director Yifat Gurion Ofer, and the first event was held just 10 months later. According to Shafir, that represents an unprecedented quick turnaround time. "There are other fairs around the world, like ours, that took two or three years to get going." The idea, apparently, has really started to take off. "The first arts fair started in Basle, in Switzerland, 30 years ago. Now there are fairs all over - like the Frieze Fair in London." Shafir believes there is great demand for affordable art, and Fresh Paint is designed to address that need, as well as providing artists with a stage for their work. The former aim is also helped by the low admission fee to the fair, just NIS 20. "Our vision is to galvanize the art market in Israel, through one umbrella event, with the cooperation of the Tel Aviv Museum. We also want to make quality art more accessible to the general public." Last year's fair, held on a site on Tel Aviv's Rehov Kibbutz Galuyot, attracted 14,000 visitors and spawned a plethora of artistic events throughout the year. "There are lots and lots of artists in Israel but only a few professional galleries," adds Shafir. "One of the criteria for accepting works for the fair is that the artists should not be signed up with any professional gallery." There are, naturally, also artistic standards to be met and a 12-member committee, comprising arts experts from Israel, London and New York, reviewed thousands of works submitted for consideration for the event. The committee certainly had its work cut out, examining works by no less than 750 artists. "Last year, 400 artists sent in work," says Shafir. "Each committee member received a number of works of art, without knowing anything about the artist. There was also no contact between the members." After the first round, the list of candidate exhibitors was whittled down to 90 and after an interview process, that was eventually reduced to 68 - the same number of artists who exhibited at last year's fair. "We ended up with a wide range of high quality works of art," Shafir notes. "We want the fair to encourage artists who are not represented by galleries and to provide them with a springboard to develop their work. We also aim for pluralism. This is the largest arts event in the country, and we were keen to utilize the forum to offer the public the widest range possible of works." All told, around 1,700 works of art will br on show and for sale at Fresh Paint, from all areas of the plastic arts. They will be exhibited in four renovated buildings on the former train station site, which also includes two restored train cars and a ticket booth. Other than the Secret Postcards, the works will be priced between NIS 600 and NIS 13,000 and payment can be made in 10 equal interest-free installments. Workshops and lectures will be held throughout the four days of the event and a prize of NIS 20,000 will be awarded to the promising artist among the exhibitors. "Every visitor to the fair can leave with something," says Shafir. "And everyone can also give something back to society and the community. That is a very important part of the fair. There's nothing like this anywhere else in the world." Fresh Paint will be open on March 18 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., on March 19 between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., on March 20 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on March 21 between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. For more information about Fresh Paint: