Who are we? 120 years of art in Israel - Opinion

An overview of the first collaboration between Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and the Institute for Israeli Art at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College.

 Marcel Janco, Nocturne Death of the Soldier 1949 private collection (photo credit: Institute for Israeli Art)
Marcel Janco, Nocturne Death of the Soldier 1949 private collection
(photo credit: Institute for Israeli Art)

A five-stop journey through the paths of identity of art in Israel marks the first collaboration between Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (NYC) and the Institute for Israeli Art at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College (TLV-Jaffa).

Established in 2013, The Institute for Israeli Art is a vivid and vibrant institution for art studies that aims to expand knowledge about art from and in Israel. The institute attracts art lovers and professionals alike and deals with aesthetic, social, and political issues as they are expressed in the works of past and contemporary Israeli artists and curators.

Dr. Gideon Ofrat, a leading Israeli art historian and curator, who came up with the idea of the institute ten years ago as a response to the lack of courses on Israeli art in universities in Israel, will also be the one to start the collaboration with Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan with a series of 5 lectures (in-person). Dr. Ofrat who specializes in Israeli art, has authored over 100 books and catalogs and curated the Israeli pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1993, 1995). His course will lay a historical background for understanding different narratives of identity that developed visual art in Israel in the face of the wars and the waves of immigration before and after the declaration of the state in 1948, and will discuss them critically. 

In 5 sessions, Dr. Ofrat will explore artworks from the early days of Zionism through post-Zionism and will discuss the founding of Bezalel art-school in Jerusalem (in 1906) and its complex relationships with the Zionist ideology and organization. He will refer to the tension between the longing for modernism and the urgent commitments to place and time and will analyze the political aspect of Israeli art in the 70’s, as well as the complex position of the city of Jerusalem in Israeli art over the years. In addition, the course will look at the return of Jewish subjects, myths and rituals in the 1990’s after a long rejection of such subjects by local artists.

The course will open April 27th, and will be held at Marlene Meyerson JCC in Manhattan.

Idit Amihai, the director of the Institute, previously headed the department of Israeli Museums and Visual Arts in the Israel Ministry of Culture for 15 years, and was the Israeli Cultural Attaché in Japan for 5 years, adds that: “I believe that art can help to better understand the deeper layers of Israeli society. There is a rich and unique artistic activity in Israel since its inception in the late 19th century.  With this first partnership, we are witnessing the beginning of a cooperation which we plan to expand with further courses that will expose to the NY Jewish community the vast art activity of Israeli and diaspora artists.” 

The Institute for Israeli Art is committed to increase public awareness, supply top information and raise involvement with Israeli art. Its activities are manifested in its decade of activity. The institute offers continuous education classes for those aspiring to widen their horizons and deepen their knowledge, as well as for those involved in writing, curating, gallery management, collecting, and collection management. The courses are taught by the leading lecturers on art and by art scholars in Israel as well as by hands-on professionals working in the local art field such as museums and independent curators, leading artists, exhibition designers, art conservators, and more. 

In addition to its highly regarded courses, the Institute holds a yearly program for curatorial and museum studies named after the acclaimed curator, Yona Fischer. And in recent years, the institute initiated grants both for curatorial research as well as for the publication of new manuscripts on the subject of art and curating in Israel. 

The vision of the Institute for Israeli Art extends beyond the school’s programs. 

The Institute hosts symposiums on a variety of topics such as: The Feminine Presence in Israeli Art; Berlin-Jerusalem: On German Immigrant Artists; and 100 Years of Israeli Print. The Institute promotes the publication of articles and research about Israeli art and has set the research of local art as an objective, thereby illuminating and empowering it. 

Furthermore, the Institute for Israeli Art has been conducting a series of in-depth, high-level seminars and workshops for professional individuals in the art field that give participants an opportunity to enrich and deepen their knowledge and their skills in a focused manner in various fields of knowledge. Including but not limited to: curatorial writing, art collections registration practices, and most recently, a seminar on the topic of “Conflict”. 

"We believe that the fascinating evolution of Israeli art demands to be studied, researched and revealed not only within the borders of Israel's territory and languages, but also beyond them."