Art in Israel





This article follows a number of artistic movements and events anchored in Israeli ideology, politics, and content. It offers a selective, partial panorama of art in Israel from 1948 through the first decade of the twenty-first century. The article presents a sequence of synchronic historical pictures defined by the specific context of each decade, in which each work is representative of an idea or artistic concept in local Israeli artistic discourse.

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The conjunctional term “Israeli art” indicates a theoretical dependence among art, the state, and the nation. In fact, Israel’s May 1948 declaration of independence took place in the building that housed the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The neutral space of art thus became the legal space of the official birth of the Israeli nation.

The foundation of the Bezalel School in Jerusalem in 1906 is considered by Israeli art historians as the beginning of Israeli art.[1] The purpose of the Bezalel institution was to combine arts and crafts and to serve the community and the newly emerging society. This was achieved not only by training professional workers and artists but by creating objects and images that would ensure the grip of the new nation’s place in the Holy Land. The birth of Israeli art then, whether dated as 1906 or 1948, occurred in conjunction with the Zionist project of creating images of place and attempting to materialize its utopia.[2] Thus, from the outset, there were two major difficulties: the dependence of the term “Israeli art” on the nation, and the question of its nativity. In addition, historians have had difficulty framing conflicting and varied practices since 1948 in a single picture.[3]

This article offers a selective, partial panorama of art in Israel since the establishment of the state in 1948. Yet this art is not simply a function of the state or at least does not merely serve what the state may identify as its interests. On the contrary, at times the art is radically critical of national matters. This article presents a sequence of synchronic historical pictures defined by the specific context of each decade. Most of the works discussed have achieved major recognition in the field. They each represent an idea or artistic concept in local artistic discourse; nevertheless many outstanding works are inevitably neglected in this selective panorama....



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