Ten years after releasing the first volume of Broad Horizons: 120 Years of Israeli Art, Levin Press has recently published the fourth volume of this comprehensive art anthology, Outsights. The Broad Horizons Hebrew-English series has long established itself as an invaluable resource and guide for art scholars and enthusiasts interested in delving into the historical aspects of Israeli art through the lens of the Levin Collection. The main figures behind the books and the collection are Gideon Ofrat, prominent art historian and curator of the art and culture of Israel, and Ofer Levin, financial strategist and art collector.
“What is known today as the Levin Collection,” explains Gideon Ofrat “started as my own private endeavor. I began purchasing works of art in 1970, upon my return from studies in the United States and my settling in Jerusalem. Before selling my collection to Ofer Levin in 2010, it consisted of nearly 1,500 works. Today, a mere few years later, it has more than doubled.”
“Gideon’s collection was based neither on fortune nor was guided by commercial considerations and long-term investments,” says Ofer Levin “his endless passion for art and his broad horizons are reflected in every work he had acquired over the years, and in all of his critical commentaries.”
The Levin Collection explores, according to Ofrat, the depth and complexity of Israeli art via a rich mosaic of trends, styles, and content. In addition to artworks that were included in the documented and recognized historical narrative of Israeli art, the collection also includes artists who, for various formalistic and political reasons, were not always granted the recognition they deserved. In keeping with this inclusive approach, the collection also contains a unique and panoptic representation of works addressing Jewish identity and life outside of Israel, despite these themes having historically been excluded from the canon of Israeli art as incompatible with the secular Zionist philosophy prevalent in their time. Only in the last four decades have they found their way back to the mainstream of local art discourse.
“Another major strength of the collection,” adds Ofrat “is its selection of landscape paintings, including views of Jerusalem and its surroundings, a recurring and persistent theme in Israeli art. It also strives to open a window to the country’s land and landscapes in such a way as to reflect the complex issues innate to Israeli identity. The Levin Collection has already been recognized as one of the most conspicuous and comprehensive collections of Israeli art” claims Ofrat.
The second volume of the series presented additional works from the collection and plunged into the twilight zones of local art throughout the generations, stretching from the center to the marginal zones and even to mediums which are not considered quite as “high” – woodcuts, screenprints, etc. The third volume represented the important supplement by many more works such as the ones from the collection of Bineth Gallery, Tel Aviv after its closing, the Shalom Shpilman Collection, and the Ludwig Bloom estate.
“This augmentation,” claims Ofrat “marked a significant turn in the Levin Collection: First, no longer settling for a mere one or two works by each artist, but rather striving to enrich their representation with additional works. Second, deviating from the intimate format characteristic of the majority of the works for larger formats. Third – and most important – significantly reinforcing young or contemporary Israeli art in the collection, thus opening it to the medium of contemporary photography and even to several video works. All of these changes attest to the collection’s ‘coming of age’, its standing on its own two feet and embarking on an independent path.”
“Outsights differs from the prior three volumes in that it contains a selection of close to 200 new works in the collection representing,” indicates Ofer Levin “Investments that expand, enhance and enrich earlier choices. It reveals a lesser emphasis on contemporary art and a growing emphasis on the history of local Israeli art. In contrast to the earlier volumes, most artists are represented by more than one work, and Gideon noted in each text additional works by the same artist that are included in the Levin Collection, and had been documented in the past.”
”Together with the previous volumes published by the Levin Collection, they capture over 700 works which are only a selection from the thousands of works in this major collection of Israeli art. These works come together to form a rich historical account of local visual art, with a special commitment to its earliest decades and to both its best-known and lesser-known representatives,” concludes Ofer Levin.
OUTSIGHTS: THE LEVIN COLLECTION, SELECTED WORKS, PART IV
By Gideon Ofrat
426 pages; $74