Before the holidays I went to Israel for a week to check out the Contemporary Art scene and of course not pass up an adventure offered to me by Kinetis in a part of the world I knew very little about. Not knowing what to expect, I ventured towards the Middle East and started off my travels along with 4 other Bloggers and Editors in Jerusalem where we got to see the oldest church in the world and witnessed a crazy snow storm, the most intense since 1953. Culture shock sunk in after looking outside and seeing the palm trees covered in heavy snow.
After a couple days in Jerusalem we moved on towards Tel Aviv. Thinking it was going to be a similar old world experience as I had in Jerusalem I was surprised at how cosmopolitan and modern the city was with so many details in landscape and architecture. In a way it reminded me of being in New York, but strangely it was in the Middle East. Gone were the stereotypes and fears that were ingrained in my brain by news outlets on television regarding that part of the world. One distinctive thing that really stuck out in my mind was the fact that even though it was close to Christmas I did not see one decoration for the holidays around; a detail I must say that I found quite nice. Through our great coordinator Adi, who assisted us on our trip, we had the great opportunity to meet artists of different disciplines, curators, collectors and have private tours of various contemporary galleries in the heart of the city. It was an incredible experience and I came back feeling enriched in more ways than one.
After going on a week long art filled vacation to Tel Aviv I have compiled my favorite Contemporary artists and galleries worth checking out in Tel Aviv. Enjoy!
5 Contemporary Galleries in Tel Aviv:
(Yudith Levin at Dvir Gallery)
Open for more then 30 years Dvir has been specializing in contemporary art, exhibiting artists from in and outside of Israel. While we were in Tel Aviv, the gallery inaugurated a new modern space combining their 3 separate locations in the city into a 5 story building, opening with new work by American artist Lawrence Weiner that he produced during a current residency there.
Adel Abdessemed, Miroslaw Balka, Mircea Cantor, Latifa Echakhch, Claire Fontaine, Douglas Gordon, Jonathan Monk and Lawrence Weiner are among the artists represented by Dvir Gallery and who create exclusive projects for its spaces.
Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery
(Installation view of Wolfgang Tillmans show at Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery)
(Art work by Gregor Hildebrandt was showing at Sommer Contemporary Gallery upon our visit with the curator/ founder Irit Sommer)
Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery opened its doors 15 years ago in Tel Aviv. The gallery is ran by Swiss born Irit Sommer who is the founder and owner of the respected gallery. The gallerist is committed to promoting Israeli artists in the international art scene, as well as bringing leading international artist to be exhibited and represented in Israel. Irit is active in the art community in Tel Aviv, a member of Muzot High School For The Arts, and is also the founder if Art TLV, the first Israeli Art Biennial.
Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery represents incredible international artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Darren Almond, Sharon Ya’ari, Karl Haendel, Michal Helfman and Tom Burr.
Center for Contemporary Art
(Michal Helfman gives us a tour of her solo exhibition called ‘Change’ at Center for Contemporary Art- Sculpture by Michal Helfman)
(Video by Michal Helfman at Center for Contemporary Art- Photo courtesy of Or Kaplan)
The Center for Contemporary Art is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1998 to promote time-based and contemporary artistic practices in Israel. The building that the Center is located in contains an auditorium, an editing room and 3 exhibition spaces which enables the CCA to curate and produce its projects and exhibitions on its own premises. The establishment was founded by Sergio Edelsztein who also is the director and chief curator. Currently the gallery is hosting an incredible solo show by Michal Helfman and has had shown various local and international artists such as Marina Abramović, Rebecca Horn, and Nir Evron.
The Shpilman Institute For Photography
(Founder and collector Shalom Shpilman gives us a tour of his well archived collection)
(Shalom Shpilman shows us his David Hockney photo collage)
(Portrait of Dora Marr artist/ and muse of Picasso- photographed by Man Ray (1936)-The Years Lie In Wait For You)
The Shiplman Institute for Photography was founded in 2010 as a non-profit philanthropic organization by collector Shalom Shpilman. The institute operates in an international format, hosting exhibition and lectures by leading figures in photography. The SIP focuses on combining educational-academic research and museal exhibitions on their premises. The foundation is ran by professionals in the field engaged in curatorship, research, planning, and coordinating its varied activities.
The institute organizes occasional tours of their incredible collection for the general public. These visits are part of the ‘Saturday in Focus’ activities, which include a guided tour of the exhibition followed by a tour of the institute’s collection highlights. The ‘Saturday in Focus’ events are guided by Mr. Shalom Shpilman and Dr. Aya Lurie, the institute’s Chief Curator.
You can see photography work in The SIP collection by artists such as Ryan McGinley, Jeff Wall, Man Ray, Azoulay Ilit, Gerard Richter, Rodney Graham and David Hockney.
The Tel Aviv Museum
(Sharon Ya’ari exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum-Photo courtesy of Or Kaplan)
(A Jeff Wall retrospective was one of the main shows exhibiting at The Tel Aviv Museum upon our visit-Morning Cleaning Mies Van Der Rohe Foundation- Barcelona 1999-Photo courtesy of Or Kaplan)
Tel Aviv Museum of Art is a municipal museum, one of Israel’s leading artistic and cultural institutions. The museum comprises various departments: The Department of Israeli Art, which holds a comprehensive collection of local art from the beginning of the 20th century to the present; the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, which encompasses international works from the mid-19th century to the present; the Department of Prints and Drawings; the Department of Photography; the Department of Architecture and Design; and the Old Masters Department, with art from the 16th to the 19th century.
The museum is currently situated in three main buildings: The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, was the museum’s abode for twelve years and today showcases mainly temporary exhibitions; the Main Building on Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, and adjacent to it, the new Herta and Paul Amir Building. Designed by American architect Preston Scott Cohen, this innovative building is an international landmark at the center of Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural capital.
Currently, the museum has appointed Suzanne Landau as the director and head curator. Previously Landau had been the chief curator of fine arts at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem for the past 34 years.
Recent exhibitions at the Tel Aviv Museum are: Andy Warhol, Jeff Wall, and Gilad Ophir
5 Contemporary Artists from Tel Aviv
(Michal Helfman sculpture at The Tel Aviv Museum)
Michal Helfman (b. 1973) is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Tel Aviv. Holding a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Helfman has had solo shows in the Israel Museum (Bat Dor, 2007), and in Tel Aviv Museum of Art (The Lesson, 2009). She has exhibited in numerous international exhibitions including the 50th Venice Biennial, as well as solo shows in San Fransisco’s Institute of Visual Art and in Cardi Gallery, Milan. Helfman is a recipient of the Anselm Kiefer Award of the Wolf Foundation and was a 2008 runner-up for the prestigious Gottesdiener Award. She is currently a lecturer at the BFA and MFA programs of Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem.
Michal Helfman’s works constantly challenge our perception of space and movement. The worlds of nightlife, dance and theater appear as recurring themes in her works, which the artist discusses in a 2009 interview to Flash Art: “What disco clubs, dance and theater sets have in common is the performance they entail. These are places where the physical experience happens in real time in front of others. The club, the stage and also the desert landscape define an area of happening that demands a total sensual presence from those who attend. Art’s space is cooler, more reflective, and I test how it can be considered in relation to the inverted totality of performance-sites.” (VIA Artis)
(Gilad Ratman gives us a preview of his new video work in progress-photo courtesy of Or Kaplan)
Gilad Ratman’s films and installations, in the artist’s own words, “aim to deal with untenable aspects of human behavior by exploring the appearance of pain, struggle, and the wild.” His narrative sequences are dark explorations of political and social subject matter, frequently employing disorientation, discomfort, inversion of cause and effect, and confusion to provoke their viewers. Themes in Ratman’s work have included social power structures, mass media, and collective understanding. The sources of his inspiration, the artist says, lie within his own identity, wrapped up in the politics and history of Israel. Representations of nature recur in Ratman’s work, frequently as a hotbed for human activity.
Gilad Ratman currently represented Israel in the 2013 The 55th Venice Biennale, and has had a solo show at Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.(VIA Artsy)
(Work by Sharon Ya’ari, Route 6, 2010 showing currently at the Tel Aviv Museum)
At first glance, Sharon Ya’ari seems to be a documentary photographer, yet his work is not as neutral as it initially appears. Ya’ari’s photographs contain an ongoing tension between nature and culture. He chooses to photograph ordinary places, whose cultural meaning is implicit in Israeli collective consciousness, and which inevitably engage the Israeli viewer. The place he captures in his work each constitute a kind of no-man’s-land, a miniature form of limbo. Ya’ari charges these banal and desolate spaces with his personal reality and with the mental state he is in while taking the photograph; he simultaneously disconnects us from, and connects us to, our own biographies, awakening in us an uncanny feeling of both familiarity and estrangement.
Ya’ari appeals to his viewers on an emotional level, evoking feelings of pain and nostalgia and undermining conceptions of time and place.
The fierce cold that metaphorically emanates from his photographs is intermingled with suffocating heat, thus awakening ambivalent responses in the viewer.
Ya’ari conducts a compelling dialogue with art history. The ostensible neutrality, empty space, and sparseness of his images can be read as references to modernism (perhaps even going as far back as nineteenth century Romanticism); at the same time, the charged context of his images, and the presence in them of the human body – even when it is absent from the frame – are themes of contemporary art.
This diptych is made up of two photographs of cars situated within the same landscape. The identical background in both photographs emphasizes the ephemeral quality of the events taking place against a permanent backdrop. Yaari explained that he chose cars whose colors blended into the photographic background. Indeed, while the cars function as independent entities, they do not attract unnecessary attention. The photographs were taken in winter, and the weight of the cars and the heavy rains stands out in contrast to the banal surroundings. The tranquil atmosphere that pervades the images is nevertheless imbued with drama – hinting, perhaps, at events that transpired here in the past or that will transpire in the future.(VIA Tel Aviv Museum)
(Dor Guez gives us a preview of his solo show at the Jewish Museum in New York at his studio-photo courtesy of Or Kaplan)
Dor Guez is an artist and the founder of CPA(Christian Palestinian Archive). Guez’s CPA based project is heavily interlinked with his art. Guez’s CPA based projects involve writing on the archive and art exhibitions. He has shown these projects in various galleries including Contemporary Art- Berlin, Beursschouwburg Art Center- Brussels, Rose Art Museum, Boston-The Mosaic Room- London, Palais de Toyko-Paris, The Jewish Museum, New York.
In a series of videos, Dor Guez offers perspectives on ethnic identity, citizenship, and prejudice from three generations of a Christian Arab family. Originally from the multiethnic, multifaith city of Lod—or al-Lydd as the municipality is known among Palestinians—the Monayer family members include Jacob, the family patriarch who recounts the expulsion of al-Lydd’s citizens after the 1948 war; his son Sami, who describes growing up among Jews as an Israeli citizen while simultaneously claiming a Palestinian identity; and Jacob’s granddaughter Samira who recounts her experience of prejudice as she is mistaken for being Jewish. Counted among 125,000 Christian Arabs in Israel, the Monayers consider themselves a minority within a minority with respect to the Muslim population. To further complicate matters, a branch of Guez’s family is Jewish.
When asked to define his identity, Guez responded in an online interview for Artis, “I have been dealing with this for years, and the truth is that I’m not sure I’m looking for an answer. It depends on the place, time, and context. What does it mean to label oneself? My ID says I’m Jewish. Is this my main reference? . . . I have the right to choose and the right to decide, as well as the right to re-examine what those definitions say about me.” (VIA Jewish Museum)
(Photo by Orit Raff-Freedom, 2013 currently showing at The Tel Aviv Museum)
The art pieces Orit Raff produces evoke feelings of intimacy within the viewer, feelings often attributed to the realm of the personal. By way of her photographs, installations, and videos, The stark imagery aesthetically in the art links her work to the minimalist genre. However, her references to common objects and everyday life also suggest a pop sensibility requires that viewers carefully examine the spaces of repetition and accumulation, in order to blur one’s vision and fill one’s ear. Orit Raff wants each viewer to let vertigo hit, by looking at her pieces long enough, until eventually, nothing becomes recognizable. She wants each viewer to experience the moment, however short it may be, where one reaches the point of ‘riding the mobius’.(VIA Noga Gallery)