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December 1, 2014 8:32 am

Why Art Matters to Jews and Humanity

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Grave of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Photo: Deror Avi.

From December 4-7, the “Art Basel” show will be held in Miami Beach. The show is considered the premiere modern and contemporary art show – complete with visiting galleries, lecture programs, and more; a who’s who from all over the world will attend. Naturally, many Jews will be present as Jews have always had a rich history in the arts.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist leader, wrote a letter in the 1930s to Boris Shatz, the Lithuanian Jewish artist who is known as the “father of Israeli art” and who founded the famed Bezalel School in Jerusalem. The letter read: “Every true artist is a cavalier in his heart. Perhaps ultimately you and I are performing the same task, only from two different sides: you invoke in people their sense of beauty while I the sense of bravery, and these are two qualities that only a free man possesses…”

Art makes people feel more alive and closer to life – and today in the Israeli and Jewish art world, there is so much to celebrate. Notably, Sotheby’s, one of the largest auction houses in the world, is hosting two interesting auctions on December 4.  One auction of “Israeli & International Art” features noteworthy artists including Yaakov Agam, Menashe Kadishman, and others. The other auction of “Important Judaica” includes relics of Jewish history, including mezuzahs that are hundreds of years old, silver goblets, and more.  Annual sales of Judaica hit their apex last year with a unique sale of items from the personal collection of Michael and Judy Steinhardt, which netted more than $8.5 million. At the time, Sotheby’s described the sale as “the most significant collection of Judaica to be offered at auction in half a century.”

There are so many great art pieces to see at Art Basel that will open one’s heart and mind – from pieces by Mel Bochner, which are breathtaking and were recently featured at the Jewish Museum, to Andy Warhol’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century, which features Jews who impacted the world in a major way. From photography to modern art, sculptures to collages, there are different flavors and styles for different tastes.

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One grows in so many ways, and as Ze’ev Jabotinsky noted in his definition of art, “…I would say it is the act of giving form to all that surrounds man and clarifies his consciousness; art is a reflection of life, the sum of life’s virtues; it exposes life’s fundamentals and preserves it for future generations.” Jabotinsky believed human spirituality could be expressed through creativity (which he said is often expressed in art). I agree.

Art Basel features so many different artists – and no matter whether one attends or not, people can consume art wherever they are. Art helps make the journey called life so much more enjoyable.

Ronn Torossian is an entrepreneur, author – and recently started becoming an art collector.

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