Inside the Revamped Tel Aviv Museum of Art

January 31, 2013 1:48 am 1 comment

The Herta and Paul Amir Building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Photo: PikiWiki Israel.

TEL AVIV - There is hardly any movement in the entry of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.  The vacant hall allows a rare opportunity to view the huge, multi-media Yaacov Agam work that dominates the museum’s lobby unobstructed, from every angle.

Sound, from the chatter of children’s voices to the even tones of a doyenne leading a touring group, is absent. Even the quiet undertone of the ubiquitous Israeli cell phone conversations is missing. At the entry door, a mother learns that she has to change her kids’ schedule—on this quiet Sunday morning, the museum is not receiving visitors.

Beyond the lobby, behind the exhibition halls and galleries, the work of art continues. JNS.org recently spoke with Shuli Kislev, senior deputy director of the museum and project manager of the museum’s new wing, the Herta and Paul Amir Building.

The formal opening of the Amir building in late 2011 marked the conclusion of an unprecedented annum marked by loss, change and accomplishment. The low point was the death of the museum’s longtime director, Professor Mordechai (Moti) Omer. At the same time, a new era began through the completion of the new $50 million building and the appointment of Director Susan Landau, former chief curator of the Israel Museum.

Now, the expanded museum continues to gain admiration throughout the international art community, and its exhibits have attracted visitors from around the globe.

Shuli Kislev, senior deputy director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

“Israeli art has attained the national venue it has long deserved,” Kislev told JNS.org.

Israel’s “principal institution of modern and contemporary art” opened its nearly 200,000 square-foot-addition in September 2011. The design, by Boston-based architect Preston Scott Cohen, was selected from almost 100 submissions in an international competition. The freestanding, white concrete, multi-angled structure glistens in the light of the Tel Aviv sun. Its massive galleries, dedicated to the display of the museum’s premier collection of Israeli art, are a series of large, white, rectangular spaces constructed around a central, 87-foot-high atrium called the “Light Fall.” The design “provides surprising, continually unfolding, vertical circulation through all the floors,” Kislev explained.

“The Light Fall connects the galleries and allows natural light to reach into every gallery of the building,” she said.

The Amir building is “dedicated to the heritage of Israeli art, presented in all its richness and variety,” said Kislev. The building was the vision of the late Omer, who recognized the need for additional gallery space.

“We had an almost unheard of store of the best Israeli art collections—stuck in the basement—exhibit space was never available,” Kislev said. “The museum can now present what Israeli art is all about, showing its full history. Having such space was the idea beyond the expansion.” Some 250 of these works, dating from 1906 to the present, were part of the inaugural exhibit.

From concept to concrete, the new building took almost 15 years to complete. Kislev explained the process.

“In 2003, following a program of serious thinking about the museum needs—including facilities like auditoriums and classrooms—we held two architectural competitions,” she said. “The design was chosen via a two stage, international competition. During the first segment, four Israeli architects were chosen from among 70 submissions. Two made second cut, together with three from abroad.”

Preston Scott Cohen’s winning design was developed with Israeli architect Amit Nemlich. The team spent years working together, both in Israel and in Boston.

The museum, a linchpin in Tel Aviv’s cultural center, is situated on a triangular plot. The need to create large, rectangular galleries presented a significant architectural design challenge.

“Contemporary curators consider white rectangles the best design for display of both sculpture and painting,” Kislev said. “From the beginning, we kept that basic idea. It was important to maintain the Light Fall through all the galleries, so we started from the middle.”

In the 10 years between contest and completion for the Tel Aviv museum, vast changes in technology occurred. Artists now have interactive devices such as YouTube and other video platforms.

“They do what they did before, in more inviting workshops,” Kislev said.

As a city institution, the museum received about one-third of the construction costs from the municipality of Tel Aviv, while the Amir family provided significant funds.

“Israelis invested heavily in the new museum structure,” Kislev said, explaining that this level of participation marked a significant change in Israel-based philanthropy.

“Israelis are starting to give money to art and culture,” she said. “Although we still need to go abroad, we can absolutely say people in Israel thought it important to give money to support the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.”

Kislev had special praise for Tel Aviv’s Mayor, Ron Huldai.

“He understands that culture is an integral part of Tel Aviv,” she said.

JNS.org asked Kislev what her wish for the museum’s future would be. With no hesitation, she responded that the museum should have “the resources to fulfill our dreams.”

“Completing this project was hard work,” Kislev said. “I was privileged to be part of the beginning of a new era for the museum. We’ve doubled our space—and doubled our exhibitions. We are in position to enable the curators to fulfill their visions. What we did not double is our staff. We are working very hard, doing the most we can. You can see the results on the walls.”

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.