Artist Menashe Kadishman joins cottage cheese war

Collection being auctioned to raise money for people struggling to cope with rising food prices.

Menashe Kadishman 311 (photo credit: Elisha Katan)
Menashe Kadishman 311
(photo credit: Elisha Katan)
A simple painting of the Tnuva dairy cooperative’s colorful logo, by the Israel Prize winning sculptor and painter Menashe Kadishman, is hanging in the front window of the Matsart auction house’s Jerusalem gallery.
The painting’s minimal shading, bright colors and popular subject amid the campaign against high food prices make the work seem out of place next to the elaborate pieces on display in the gallery, located next to the King David Hotel.
But its placement is deliberate: the 60 x 50 cm. painting is part of a collection of three works of similar size the artist recently completed. Matsart is auctioning the works to raise money for people struggling to cope with rising food prices, and the minimum bid for each work is NIS 18,000.
The pieces are a statement about the current consumer campaign against high prices for cottage cheese and other foods. They highlight Kadishman’s use of art to join the fight against rising food prices, Uri Rosenbach, executive director of Matsart, said.
“Here you have an artist making a serious statement through his artwork: We have to take care of the needy,” Rosenbach said.
Two of the three paintings include Kadishman’s iconic sheep image. A green cottage cheese bottle sits in place of the sheep’s nose in one of the paintings, distorting its face.
Small pieces of a Tnuva cottage cheese container are placed on top of the sheep’s head in the second painting, and three full-size containers are lined up by the sheep’s mouth.
The third painting, which captures the green rolling hills, simple red, white and blue house and lone tree of the Tnuva logo, also includes lids of cottage cheese containers from Strauss, Tara and Tnuva – the three main dairy producers.
The painting of the sheep with the cottage cheese container as its nose has colorful pink, yellow and blue dots on its forehead, but the other paintings only include the colors of the Tnuva logo.
Kadishman, born in 1932, told The Jerusalem Post that cottage cheese wrappers and the logo of Tnuva, which controls an estimated 70 percent of the cottage cheese market, are central images in the three pieces because the cheese is “a symbol of the situation” in Israel and “poor people can’t afford it.”
While prices of many food products are higher in Israel than in Europe, the price of cottage cheese has skyrocketed and has elicited a public boycott and outcry. Prices for the Israeli staple peaked in June at almost NIS 8 for a 250-gram container, compared to NIS 4.91 in 2006, when government price supervision was lifted.
Concerns are still mounting, and an interministerial committee was recently formed to investigate the regulatory and business barriers that affect food prices. It held its first hearing last week.
“We are in trouble in this country... it upsets me,” the artist said, adding that he sees many people who cannot afford to buy goods such as medicine and food. This concern prompted Kadishman to paint the pieces, whose entire proceeds will be donated to charity, he said.
A Tnuva representative declined to comment on the art or on Kadishman’s position.
Itzik Elrov, a cantor from Bnei Brak who launched the Facebook campaign that organized a boycott of cottage cheese in June and whose group boasts thousands of members, is excited about Kadishman’s project. He visited the gallery when the pieces were first displayed last week.
“It’s important that artists are joining this fight against the price of goods in Israel,” he said, adding that Kadishman’s paintings show that “the struggle transcends socioeconomic barriers.
“This is not just a problem for poor people... it is a struggle that affects all Israelis,” Elrov said.
Kadishman said he hopes that these works will also hearken back to a period in Israeli history in which the arts, including songs and paintings, played a more prominent role in public life. “Once art used to be involved in showing concern for society,” he said, recounting that after the Sinai Campaign in 1956, he and his fellow soldiers would sing songs to inspire them.
“Art is not involved in the life of the country,” he said. “I think its important that art has a social effect. Art should be more involved in the life of the country and not stand aside.”