EXCLUSIVE: Israeli Artist Yaacov Agam Explains Jewish Kinetic Rainbow Painting Presented to Pope Francis
When Pope Francis, and the hundred Vatican officials and international journalists who accompanied him to the Holy Land, boarded the specially outfit El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 777 flight LY514, clad with the Pontiff’s coat of arms, for the return flight to Rome on Monday, airline president David Maimon showered him with gifts.
A published book of greetings and messages sent via social media from El Al passengers around the world, a bottle of Altitude 720 kosher wine from Barkan Winery affixed with a special label with the date and flight number of the historic voyage, and a painting by 86-year-old Israeli artist Yaacov Agam called, ‘Faith-Visual Pray.’
Maimon told the Pope that the artwork integrated symbols of Judaism, including the Star of David and the Menorah, symbolizing the Holy Temple of Jerusalem and the seven churches of Christianity.
In an exclusive interview, Agam, one of the pioneers of the kinetic art movement, told The Algemeiner the story behind the special painting.
“El Al wanted to give the Pope a gift, and they looked to different galleries, and this was in Art Market,” a gallery in the port of Tel Aviv, he said.
“They chose this work of art because it expresses this idea, the feeling of being Jewish,” he said.
“The art work is very significant because you see the rainbow, and the rainbow is the expression of color. And the beauty of the rainbow is symbolizing – you have red and blue and yellow and violet. You have all the different colors, and they tolerate each other. And all together, they make a beautiful thing – a rainbow.”
“And this is symbolizing the world – if we tolerate each other there will be a great peace in the world and Moshiach [the Messiah] will hopefully come,” Agam said.
“At the same time, it represented some of the most Jewish values and also represented the State of Israel, with the Magen David [the Star of David] and the Chanukiah [Menorah], with seven branches, and there are also the seven branches of Christianity,” Agam said.
Reflecting on his role as an artist, Agam, who has been featured in retrospectives at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, in Paris, and at the Guggenheim Museum, in New York, said that in “Egyptian art, they represent their religion, their values – they’re not just works of art. They represent their religion, so I tried to make a good work of art that represents Jewish values.”
In Israel, where everything is imbued with ancient ideas, El Al said that nearly 66 years ago, when the decision was made to establish a national airline, in search of an appropriate name, they turned to the Bible for inspiration and chose “El Al,” from the book of Hoseah, signifying “to the most high.”