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August 12, 2021 2:12 pm
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Acclaimed and Controversial Israeli Sculptor Igael Tumarkin Dies at 87

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Igael Tumarkin’s monument to the Holocaust in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Photo: xiquinhosilva / Wikimedia 

Acclaimed Israeli sculptor Igael Tumarkin, often considered the “bad boy” of Israeli art due to his controversial work and public statements, died Thursday at the age of 87, N12 reported.

Tumarkin was both widely acclaimed and wildly controversial throughout his life, though he eventually become a revered figure for his work — which won him the Israel Prize, the country’s top honor, in 2004.

Several of Tumarkin’s sculptures became iconic, including “He Walked in the Fields,” now housed at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; a monument to the Holocaust in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square; and a garden of sundials in Ashkelon.

Tumarkin was born in Germany and moved to Israel with his mother at the age of two. He was raised in Tel Aviv and Bat Yam, and began to study sculpture following his IDF service.

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He lived a nomadic life in Europe for several years, wandering from Germany to Holland to France, and eventually returning to Israel, where his work began to receive attention.

His sculpture is described as marked by a combination of pop art and social protest, with the Israel Prize judges calling him one of the “most important and original among the creators of the modern style in Israeli sculpture.”

“His work has made its mark on Israeli art for the last 40 years,” they said, and exercised a “notable influence” on the Israeli art world, fostering a greater appreciation of modern art.

Controversy, however, dogged Tumarkin all his life; and when the Prize was granted by unanimous vote, public outrage erupted due to his previous political statements.

Among the statements he was accused of making were “When I see the Haredim, I understand the Germans who murdered them in the Holocaust” and “If the settlers have a kid or two killed, they say ‘we’ll make four in their place and everything will be ok.’”

Tumarkin would deny making some of the statements attributed to him, and was awarded the Prize despite several petitions urging against it.

He eventually retired to a moshav and created a sculpture garden there. His final exhibition was in 2009.

Tumarkin leaves behind a wife and three children.

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