Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli Actress Says Playing Muslim Character in ‘Tyrant’ Has Made Her More ‘Hopeful, Humble’

    Israeli actress Moran Atias said that playing a Muslim woman in the hit FX series Tyrant has changed her outlook. “Educating myself about a different culture has made me more hopeful and humble, that we’re all the same,” the Jewish actress, 35, said during an interview with AOL Build. Atias plays Leila Al-Fayeed, the strong and politically minded wife of the president of Abbudin, a fictional Middle Eastern country run by a dictatorial family. The Israeli-born former model, who earned the title of Miss Globe International […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    Jewish Fashionistas From Around the World to Tour ‘Chic Side of Israel’

    A delegation of 35 Jewish fashion industry mavens from around the world will travel to Israel later this month to “discover the chic side” of the country, 5 Town Jewish Times reported. The eight-day tour, organized by the Maryland-based Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, will include visits to key fashion sites and meetings with some of the country’s top fashion designers, merchandisers and marketers. Participants will also attend a JWRP Fashion Week event in Tel Aviv. JWRP said the trip is […]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Honored to Represent Israel at 2016 Olympic Games

    Pro golfer Laetitia Beck said she is honored to have been selected to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil largely because of her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. “Everywhere I go, I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through,” she told the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). “Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot […]

    Read more →