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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →