How to find art at a football stadium

In the capital's Teddy Stadium a unique space for Art transforms the lives of working artists.

One of the 18 studio spaces currently in use at the New Gallery (photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
One of the 18 studio spaces currently in use at the New Gallery
(photo credit: SARAH LEVI)
The New Gallery Artists Studio has been part of the Jerusalem art scene since the turn of the millennium. It is a gallery space funded by the Jerusalem Municipality that has hosted dozens of art exhibitions by contemporary Israeli artists. It also offers local visual artists 18 large studio spaces at relatively low prices. There’s even an ongoing lecture series and a working, lithograph print-workshop. It’s located at Gate 22 of Teddy Stadium, in between the Pais Arena and Malha’s Jerusalem Mall.
Teddy Stadium, named after the iconic former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, opened its doors to the public in 1992 with a capacity of some 31,000. The stadium is home to the city’s four soccer teams, but for some reason this gallery space is relatively unknown to most Jerusalem residents and its artistic community despite all that it offers.
The idea of creating a unique space for artists came to artist and curator Hedva Shemesh about five years after the stadium was built. During the late 1990s there arose a demand for more artistic and creative opportunities within the city. Shemesh and a group of artists took over this virtually empty and unused space and received funding from the municipality’s plastic art department (which is also responsible for four other city art centers: the Artist Cube, Ginbly; a center for young artists; Nayedet Omanut, a mobile art center; and the new Beita Gallery on Jaffa Road).
In 1999, the New Gallery was opened to the public and Shemesh became the founding director and curator of this formerly unused 800 square meters of space inside the sports complex until 2014. Following her resignation, Tamar Gispan Greenberg took over as director and curator. A Jerusalemite from birth, she worked as a curator at the Israel Museum for seven years.
Greenberg’s eagerness to share this space with the artists of the city is palpable and she describes the gallery as “heaven.” “This place has so much potential for the artist, for exhibitions, for Jerusalemites and the audience that appreciates art.”
Her timing couldn’t have been better, as she notes that Jerusalem has been going through a real cultural renaissance for the past two years. More artist spaces are opening up in the city and there are more graduates of the capital’s two art academies, Bezalel and Musrara, who are staying and making their art in Jerusalem instead of going to Tel Aviv or abroad.
Riding the wave are such recently established art institutions as Hamiffal, Beta and Beit Alliance, all opened within the past two years. Gispan Greenberg is trying to bring the New Gallery out of the shadows of the past and into future creative opportunities for artists and their audiences.
As she shows off the vast gallery space, she beams with excitement as she recalls the previous two years. “I think that this city has something special... I never thought I’d talk like a patriot, but I think that the job here makes me understand the crucial role of this place and other artist institutions in Jerusalem.”
It’s still an uphill climb, since this space is off the beaten path of the Israeli art scene, but Gispan Greenberg is up for the challenge of raising public awareness.
She believes that the first step is to bring in a diverse range of artists to exhibit their works.
The New Gallery splits up its 800 sq.m.
of studio space by giving local artists 500 sq.m. of space and dedicating 300 sq.m.
to the gallery for hosting group and solo shows. Currently 16 artists are working in the 18 studios available, most of them painters, while two are photographers.
The artists’ ages range from 30 to 60 and the rent for a studio ranges from NIS 400 to NIS 1,100.
The atmosphere is quiet, the smell of oil paints and turpentine wafts through the halls, mixing with the faint sounds of music playing from laptop speakers behind closed studio doors. Most artists tend to keep to themselves, while a few build strong bonds with one another.
For the most part, they have families and jobs outside of their art, so when they come to the studio, they come to work.
ONE OF these artists is Yonatan Ron, 29, who made this place his studio since graduating from Bezalel’s art department in 2012. Instead of moving to Tel Aviv, he found many incentives to stay in Jerusalem.
“I was born here, so it’s easier, more familiar – I know the people and the place.
And Tel Aviv does not seem that easy for me to handle on a daily basis, especially due to the cost of studio space compared to here, which is subsidized by the city.”
He shares his space with another artist: he works during the mornings and afternoon, while she works at night.
Asked about interaction with anyone outside the gallery, he replies: “Not really.
Just with other artists. It’s not really my type of scene. I like this space, the isolation. I’m a loner, so this is kinda good.”
The remaining 300 sq.m. of gallery space are being prepared for the next exhibition, which opened on June 20, entitled “Stream of Consciousness.” This is a group show curated by Arik Futterman and Itai Anker that feature local video and sound artists who use the space to project original video art and soundscapes onto the gallery walls.
Despite everything this space has to offer Jerusalem’s art community, as well as the affordability of the studios, if given the chance to relocate to somewhere more central, Tamar Gispan Greenberg admitted she would take it.
“I’ll tell you, this type of venue for contemporary artists is very unique, but we are stuck ‘beyond the heat of darkness,’” she declares. “All these young people who live in the center of the city don’t have cars, so it takes about an hour to get here. This is crazy.”
Nevertheless, her sense of responsibility to her artists is unwavering. “I want artists to come, to use the space for solo shows, and I want these artists to fly and to have an opportunity to really fill this space with art.”