Jewish artists played an important role in the development of the Romanian art, and artists from Romania played an important role in the history of Israeli art. For the Israeli Independence Day I chose to present a short selection of Israeli artists (painters and sculptors) who were born in my native Romania. Some have brought an important contribution to the development of the Israeli artistic movement and acquired fame both in Israel and world-wide. A few are still active today, and of course, I must have missed many.

I chose one work from each of the eight artists in this list. This is certainly only a specific section of the complex universe of the Israeli art, a proof of its diversity, and a testimony of the path artists born in Romania melded the education and traditions of their native country into the melting pot of the Israeli art.  This is an invitation for entering the worlds of each of these artists and for adding more names to the list.

Happy Independence Day! Hag Atzmaut Sameakh!

The list cannot begin with another name than …





Marcel Janco

(or Marcel Iancu) as the Romanians spell his name. By the time when he reached the shores of Palestine under British Mandate in 1941, Janco was a well-known artist who has contributed to the birth of the European avant-garde and specifically of the Dadaist movement, and a famous architect with tens of buildings designed in Romania (some of them can still be visited in specialized tours in Bucharest). He also was a Jew running for his life from the continent that had fallen under fascism which did not spare Romania, at that time under the rule of the Iron Guard and of nationalist and antisemitic dictator Ion Antonescu. He re-created himself in Palestine and then Israel, started to paint in a new palette and vision, and founded the artists community in the village of Ein Hod, which continues until today.





Reuven Rubin

Born in Galati in a religious family, Rubin came for the first time to Palestine (still under Ottoman rule) in 1912 and was a student at the Bezalel Academy founded by Boris Schatz. He was not very happy with the academic approach of his teachers, and continued his studies in Paris, returned to Romania during the First World War, then came for good to Israel in 1923. His portraits and landscapes are exquisite, as witnessed by the beautiful ‘Safed’ dated 1938. He became part of the Tel Aviv intellectual and art circles, and after the foundation of Israel in 1948 was the first official Israeli diplomatic envoy (minister) to Romania.





Avigdor Arikha

I first encountered a large selection of Arikha’s works at the British Museum to whom he had donated about 100 of his works for an exhibition. A few years later a big retrospective was organized at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art bringing back into the center of the attention an Israeli artist who was living abroad for about half a century. Born in Radauti, he was deported during the war to Transnistria, where his father died. His drawings as a teen who had seen death and horror attracted the attention of the Red Cross that saved his life and brought him to Palestine in 1944. As Rubin (but many years later) he first studied at Bezalel, and then in Paris. His career can be divided into two: a first abstract period and a second figurative in which he painted mostly portraits and especially self-portraits like the one here.



Tuvia Juster

In a few days there will be ten years since Tuvia Juster passed away. Born in 1931 in Braila, Juster studied in Bucharest and was influenced by the works of Constantin Brancusi, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. His work is in danger to be forgotten here in Israel. Only one exhibition was organized at Ein Hod, the artists village founded by Janco, where Tuvia Juster also had his home. A larger retrospective would put his works and contributions to the Israeli art at their right place. I hope that this will happen rather sooner than later.





Sandu Liberman

A few decades ago the name of Sandu Liberman was quite well known. Born in Iasi in 1923, he studied in Romania and was well known especially as portraitist, until 1962 when he came to Israel. He continued his activity here, painting portraits and scenes from the traditional Jewish life. His best works as this ‘Portrait of a Smiling Boy’ show empathy and skill in rendering the feelings of his subjects, and continuity with the portraits tradition in the Romanian art he grew in as an artist.





Shlomo Alter 

Shlomo Alter’s parents owned a restaurant in Romania and his first drawings described the atmosphere of that place. He came in Israel in 1948 at the age of 12, and oscillated between art (student of Aaron Avni and of Janco) and engineering, to dedicate himself completely to painting after 1975. His works are beautifully colored in the tradition of the fauvism, while representing the local landscape in a pseudo-naive manner.




Philip Rantzer

Born in 1956 (in some sources I found 1958 as his year of birth) Philip Rantzer came to Israel as a small child, so all his education and formation as an artist happened here. He had tens of exhibitions in Israel and all over the world, represented Israel at the Venice Biennale in 1999, and exposed amng many other places in Bucharest, at the Musuem of Contemporary Art in 2003. I picked to show here his ‘Big Cart’ work because he is combining in it the theme of the Wandering Jew with a landscape which is maybe Jaffo, or maybe a more generic shtetl.







Belu-Simion Fainaru

Born in Bucharest in 1959, Belu-Simion Fainaru came to Israel in 1973. He studied at Haifa and continued with studies in art in Italy and Belgium. He lives and works in Belgium and Israel. His earlier work ‘Sham’ (‘There’) from 1966 represents one stage in the evolution from monumental sculpture to the mixed media objects. He exposed in Israel, Romania, other countries in Europe. In 2015 he founded AMOCA – the Arab Museum Of Contemporary Art in Sakhnin (an Arab town in Israel) the first of its kind here, promoting co-existence between Arab and Jewish communities, opening gates for art that is inclusive and collaborative.

‘Brancusi – amicii si inamicii’ (editie ingrijita de Nadia Marcu-Pandrea si prefatata de Stefan Dimitiriu, aparuta in 2010) este prezentata de Editura Vremea ca al treilea volum al monografiei Brancusi a lui Petre Pandrea. Descrierea este destul de inexacta, caci volumul este mai degraba o culegere de texte intre care cel principal ar fi trebuit sa fie intr-adevar ultima parte a monografiei repinse de cenzura in anii 60, dar chiar si acest text impartit in capitole pare neterminat si nefinisat. Restul este compus din note de lectura, articole biografice si polemice, note de calatorie in forme mai mult sau mai putin finite, recuperate cu grija si evlavie de cei care au alcatuit volumul dar atasarea lor capitolelor de monografie produce un ansamblu lipsit de consistenta, plin de repetitii si fara o linie calauzitoare unica asa cum ar avea o monografie terminata. Culegerea este desigur interesanta si in ceea ce-l priveste pe Brancusi si in ceea ce priveste atitudinea lui Pandrea fata de Brancusi si de cei care-l inconjurau pe acesta, dar ea spune in cele din urma mai multe despre autorul cartii decat despre subiectul ei.





Ideea calauzitoare a cartii lui Petre Pandrea este cea prin care exegezul, admiratorul si prietenul lui Constantin Brancusi intra in polemica directa cu o parte dintre ‘brancusologii’ din tara si din strainatate in ceea ce priveste formatia culturala de baza, educatia artistica, si incadrarea lui Brancusi in lumea artistica pariziana.

‘In opozitie cu teza ‘Ciobanului din Carpati’ si cu aceea a ‘Sfantului din Montparnasse’, rog sa mi se ingaduie a emite ipoteza si a prezenta portretul lui Brancusi ca pe un ‘Erasmus din Montparnasse’, un umanist polivalent, un intelectual rafinat, un filosof si un moralist, un spirit esopic grefat pe un fond de filosofare stoica rurala a stramosilor sai tarani si mosneni, o aparitie a iluminismului progresist oltean din etapa capitalismului comercial in Romania si a mercantilismului cobilitar craiovean plecat in emigratie.’ (pag. 106)

In mod argumentat si documentat Pandrea respinge atat caracterizarile paternaliste ale unor exegeti occidentali, o parte dintre ei oameni care l-au cunoscut pe Brancusi, care minimizau nu numai persoana artistului ci si cultura din care acesta provenea, ca si simplificarile ideologice si ideologizante ale propagandistilor Romaniei comuniste. Brancusi este incadrat in Europa pentru ca Romania si Oltenia din care vine sunt parti integrale ale Europei.

‘Spiritualitatea romana nu poate fi nici chinoiserie si nici exotism nipon. Prin traditii si forte creatoare, suntem incadrati de milenii in preajma Balcanilor, in Europa centrala si sud-estica.’ (pag. 42)

Respingand teza ‘ciobanului’ ajuns in peregrinare la portile Occidentului, Pandrea il prezinta pe Brancusi ca pe un tanar educat, artist deja format intr-o scoala locala, dar nu lipsita de valoare si rafinament, pornit intr-o calatorie de cunoastere si descoperire spirituala:

‘C. Brancusi a sosit la Paris ca ‘Wandervogel’ (pasare calatoare), intr-o calatorie de studii in muzeele din strainatate, care a durat doi ani alaturi de Petre Neagoe si alti mestesugari tineri plecati pentru perfectionarea mestesugurilor. “Pasarile calatoare” nu sunt turisti mediocri si acefali, vizitatori superficiali, plicitisti si plicticosi. “Pasarile calatoare” de la 1902 – 1904 erau tinerii valorosi, de diferite nationalitati, plecati in grupuri, din sete de cunoastere a lumii si pentru ameliorarea mestesugurilor deja capatate. Fusesera ucenici si calfe, si deveneau mesteri.’ (pag. 53)





Interesanta si nu lipsita de originalitate este plasarea originilor artei, personalitatii si caracterului lui Brancusi in spatiul de matca al Olteniei. In Petre Pandrea, Oltenia isi gaseste unul dintre cei mai expresivi si mai documentati sustinatori si suporteri ai unicitatii istorice si culturale deseori neglijate si minimizate a acestei provincii in spatiul romanesc.

‘Cei mai buni ostasi, cei mai multi generali, cei mai multi jandarmi, prea multi ministri si o liota de prim-ministri au fost dati de Oltenia … Olteanul Constantin Brancusi s-a autoportretizat si a schitat pe localnicii dornici si ambitiosi, lansand aforismul pedagogic: “Sa creezi ca Dumnezeu, sa comanzi ca un rege si sa muncesti ca un sclav”. Levantinii nu creeaza, ci desfigureaza, nu muncesc ci jefuiesc, si sunt ahtiati dupa tiranie sibarita. Mentalitatea Valahiei Mici se afla, de multe secole in conflict deschis sau larvat cu mentalitatea bizantina a Capitalei Valahiei Mari. Aici sunt radacinile bancurilor despre olteni: invidia si ranchiuna. Oltenii au luat locul evreilor in satira. ‘  (pag. 26)

Unul dintre textele minore face chiar o interesanta paralele intre Oltenia si Irlanda, intre Brancusi si Joyce. Merita citit.

Petre Pandrea intra in polemica directa cu cei care au creat imaginile alternative si deformate ale lui Brancusi, cei pe care fara ezitare ii incadreaza in categoria ‘inamicilor’. In sprijinul opiniilor sale unul dintre argumentele principale este cunoasterea directa a artistului in anii tineretii (lui Pandrea) petrecuti la Paris si prietenia pe care marele sculptor i-a acordat-o.

‘Am descoperit, cu acest prilej, un compatriot fermecator si solidar cu Oltenia lui, desi o parasise de patru decenii si, aproape, nu-i mai stia limba. Am descoperit un ganditor si un intelept. Vazusem multi oameni mari in tara si in strainatate dar, in preajma lui, am simtit aripa geniului falfaind spre suav.’ (pag. 37)

In incercarea sa de a demonta stereotipurile de ‘vagabond’ sau ‘cioban’ aplicate lui Brancusi, Petre Pandrea demonteaza in mod argumentat opiniile si caracterizarile lui Ionel Jianu, eseist si promotor al artei brancusiene considerat pana in ziua de azi unul dintre expertii cei mai reputari in materie. Jean Cassou – poetul, criticul de arta si primul director al Muzeului de Arta Moderna din Paris – este si el contrazis cu argumente si viziunea sa brancusiana aspru criticata pentru simplism si prejudecati culturale. Nu ies bine de sub pana lui Pandrea nici Marcel Mihalovici pe ale carui relatari se bazeaza Jianu in parte din argumentarile sale si nici ‘Peghita’ Guggenheim care este criticata aspru pentru un episod care in perspectiva istorica pare destul de marginal – incercarea de a-si adjudeca la un pret sub valoare (dar ce pret poate fi la valoare?) una dintre versiunile pretioase ale Maiastrei. Ciudata pare inversunarea lui Pandrea fata de Tristan Tzara – este adevarat ca Brancusi nu va fi avut o parere prea buna despre poetul decazut social intr-o anumita perioada, dar asta parca nu justifica repetata minimizare pana la marginea calomniei si a negarii rolului acestuia in geneza dadaismului si a avangardei artistice a secolului 20.





Biografia personala a lui Petre Pandrea a fost franta de ascensiunea comunismului, miscare pe care omul de stanga si juristul Pandrea a sustinut-o inca din anii ilegalitatii. Legaturile de familie cu Lucretiu Patrascanu si activitatea de jurist in apararea unora dintre ‘exponentii burgheziei’ (dupa ce ii aparase pe comunisti sub regimurile precedente) l-au costat pe Pandrea ani grei de inchisoare intre 1948 si 1952 si intre 1958 si 1964. Nu este de mirare ca lipsesc din carte referiri la oferta facuta de Brancusi statului roman de a-si lasa atelierul si o parte din lucrari mostenire natiunii, oferta refuzata de autoritatile comuniste ale anilor 50, posibil ca Pandrea nu a stiut despre acest episod, sau nu a dorit sa scrie despre el. Mai surprinzatoare mi s-au parut in perspectiva istorica ramasitele limbajului de lemn si ale ideilor schematic-doctrinare (referirea la ‘primul 1 Mai liber’, apologia biografica a lui Marx care l-ar fi facut sa rada in hohote pe Paul Johnson), mai ales cand acestea vin de la un om care nu numai ca a trecut prin Gulagul romanesc, dar a si avut curajul sa-si astearna pe hartie cele traite acolo.

‘Sunt, in sfarsit, pe povarnisul varstei, spre marele hau. Consemnez in cele ce urmeaza, fragmente de conversatii din oralitatea prestigioasa a lui Brancusi, ca si povesti ale ucenicilor romani ai lui, despre neuitatul maistru, care avea o doctrina morala a stramosilor… La 60 de ani, simti pasii de lup ai mortii care dau tarcoale. Incepe inserarea melancolica inainte de marea noapte.’  (pag. 32-33)


Poate ca aceasta carte a lui Petre Pandrea ar trebui citita mai mult in acesta tonalitate de testament memorialistic. Pandrea insusi a avut un destin zbuciumat, si marea lumina a vietii sale a fost intalnirea cu geniul si cu omul Brancusi. Despre el a scris pagini memorabile, i-a gasit asociatii si filiatii unice in Creanga si Joyce, i-a trasat radacinile intr-o Oltenie descrisa ca un spatiu distinct, original si puternic. Pline de miez, respect si nostalgie sunt relatarile despre personalitatile Olteniei cum ar fi Felix Aderca, sau povestirea primei calatorii facute la iesirea din inchisoare in 1964, in cautarea radacinilor lui Brancusi si a propriilor sale radacini. Mai degraba si mai mult decat un volum final al unei monografii a unui mare artist aceasta carte este o incheiere a unei biografii spirituale a autorului cartii insusi.






We spent a nice late morning and early afternoon in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art with two documentaries in the program of the 5th edition of the EPOS International Art Film Festival and a few exhibitions, one at least worth mentioning here. All three are related to artists who lived and created in the 20th century, and whose biographies were related – in different ways – to the wars of the 20th century and and the Holocaust.


(video source GeorgeSoltiAccademia)


The first one was also the best. The documentary ‘Maestro or Mephisto – The Real Georg Solti’ directed by Andy Kings-Dabbs and co-produced by the BBC covers the biography, the career, the life and personality of the Jewish Hungarian conductor who was a pupil and disciple of Bartok and Toscanini, dared involve himself in the reconstruction of the Opera houses in Munich and Frankfurt immediately after WWII, brought to fame and close to musical perfection the Covent Garden Opera and the Chicago Philharmonic. He was a perfectionist and not an easy person to work with, some disliked his style or his involvement in Germany after the Holocaust, but he left a legacy of wonderful music, he built orchestras and opera houses which remain until today among the finest in the world, and he also encouraged young talents (I did not know about his role in the career of Angela Gheorghiu). It’s a wonderful documentary film for music lovers, I found it on youTube – enjoy!


(video source ARTIS4YOU)


Otto Dix is one of my preferred artists in the 20th century art. The Canadian documentary ‘Ten Times Dix’ directed by Jennifer Alleyn did not throw too much new light on his life and work, but at least gave us the occasion to see again some of his best works gathered in the North American exhibition which I also have seen three years ago in New York, at the Neue Gallerie.


(video source GroupeLocomotion)


Unfortunately this film does not seem to be available on youTube. See above the trailer.





Before and in the break between the movies we could visit some of the exhibitions currently open in the museum. One which is worth a visit is of the Polish-Jewish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow. Born in 1926 her life and biography was marked by the Holocaust which she survived but which left her with a frail health. To some extent her biography and her art reminds the one of Frida Kahlo sharing the same focus on the suffering, human body, physical pain, and sexuality – all blended in the case of Szapocznikow with the influences of surrealism. There are many poignant works in this exhibition, I avoid using the word ‘beautiful’ as some of them shout in a manner that does not fit with the norms of nice aesthetics, but the pain seems they radiate feels authentic.


Bringing to Israel the international Word Press journalistic photography winners and joining in the same exhibition the Israeli Local Testimony collection has become a tradition, and so is my visiting the show at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. I could not miss the 2013 edition.




Selected from over 100,00 entries submitted most of them during 2012, the World Press 2013 edition choices seemed to me less impressive than in the previous years. While in each of the other editions there were a few photographs that I remember well until today, the current one did not offer too many works that I will remember visually next year. The overall mood was also quite somber. Many of photos in the events-related categories were connected to the situation in the Middle East, and with the fading of the hopes of the ‘Arab spring’ and the civil conflicts and extreme Islam offensive that took over the area, they let room to some horrific images. But even out of the area, photojournalism of the year 2013 contained little reasons of optimism.




The ‘Local Testimony’ section occupied this year almost equal area in the interior of the exhibition space. As in the previous years the quality and intensity of the works were in some cases equal to these in the international section. The Israeli section also celebrated ten years since its first occurrence, and this is a good opportunity to see in the show a few of the best photos exposed during the decade.





The big prize of World Press 13 was awarded to a dramatic shot taken in Gaza by the Swede Paul Hansen showing the funeral of two children killed in the military actions of Israel aimed to stop the bombing in the south of Israel. Politics put aside it’s a great photo showing the horrors of war and the price inflected on innocent victims in a year which has seen too many innocent civilian victims all over the Earth.


source source

source source

The work that impressed me most esthetically belongs actually to the sport photos section. It is taken by Wei Seng Chen and shows the finish of a bull race in Sumatra.





With the Middle East in the center of the news and of the photojournalists some of the entries in the Israeli section seem to be a direct continuation of the works in the international section. Such is the photo taken by Ammar Younis during the protest of the Bedouins against the intentions of the government to relocate them, a move they perceive like endangering their way of life.





Yohann Dobensky took a picture in the more intimate environment of an ultra-orthodox family in pilgrimage at the tombs of the great rabbis in Ukraine. The innocent game of a kid playing with a plastic gun tells a lot about the obsession of the Israeli society, even of its less militaristic circles with weapons.

Even if the awards selection falls behind the one on the previous years, World Press 13 and Local Testimony is a show to visit. More information on the Web site of the museum and on the site of the World Press organization (including images and descriptions of the awarded works) –


I need to thank Mark Zuckerberg for my first encounters with Dina Bova. Via his wonderful and awful (whatever meaning you chose) Facebook I met a young Israeli artist who uses this social media in order to make known to the world her vision, her works and her achievements. She also allows us to follow her on the exhibitions road. I missed her previous exhibition in Israel at the Museum of Photography in Tel Hai, her next major appearance was in her native Moscow – a place that is still an un-reached dream for me, but this week she opened what I would call a significant exhibition just in my backyard, at the Weill Culture Center in Kfar-Shmaryahu. I visited the exhibition yesterday and I was impressed. Simply said – I am following as time allows all important exhibitions in the Israeli museums and galleries, and this is one of the best I have seen in the recent years.




Dina Bova is a 21st century surrealist, who lives in Israel, and uses digital photography as her principal mean of expression. If the combination seems a little bit … surrealist, we need to trace back this artistic current to the roots in the years 20 of the last century to find that no means of expression were excluded and the toolset  of the Surrealists did comprise still photography and moving images (cinema) supplementary to the better known painting and poetry genres. Dina’s vision expands on the experience of the hiper-realists, as she uses photography (the art of catching the moment) in order to express the atemporal – allegories and dreams.  One can feel in her works the melting pot of cultural and life experiences she was exposed to (she came to Israel at the age of 13) – the light and the landscape of Israel, the shades and deepness of the emotions of Russia. These are however only background elements, the strongest impression is made by her capacity of transforming imagination and concepts into striking and memorable visual experiences, her pleasure into playing with models and elements of scenery, and combining them into something new and different.





The name of the exhibition is ‘Truthful Fiction’ - gathering the best of her works in the last few years. In the best surrealist tradition the borders between reality and fiction, between truth and dream are blurred. The self portrait used for the poster of the exhibition is named ‘Break Through’ with no dash between the two words. A mirror, reflection of reality, is broken and its pieces used to create a different reality, the one of the artist.





Dina Bova does not seem to run away from controversy, from the need to shock and ask questions, even in her portraits.’The Man Who Laughs’  is far away from happily laughing.





Sometimes her characters are ‘Lost’ in a landscape that offers no means of orientation, or worse – false signs and symbols of direction or logic. Did you ever dream that you cannot find your way? that the doors you open go to nowhere?





Super-chef Israel Aharoni is the model for ‘Imaginarium’ and a few more works. I liked here the winter fantasy landscape, the magician seems to descend from the world of the circus I loved during my childhood, despite the rather desolated and frozen landscape his presence is re-assuring, there may be somebody in this strange universe who can control it.





The pleasure of playing infiltrates also the Biblical allegory of ‘Quo Vadis’ – a work built starting from a statue, quite different from most of the other where the concept is driving the image. 





There is no playfulness or joy in ‘Memory of the Future’, another Biblical allegory, a somber Madonna with tears of blood, projected on another desolated landscape. And yet, there is love in her attitude.





‘Quaere Veritatem’ projects the Bibical theme in a satirical register. It is actually a DVD cover for the excellent rock band Orphaned Land – part of the cycle Mythology of ‘Orphaned Land’.





In the cycle of the allegories ‘Allegory of Cognition’ is one of the most visually striking works, and one of these that connect strongly with the ‘classical’ surrealist art style in painting.





I especially liked ‘Allegory of Hope’. My reading of the work is that achieving hope requires the strength and the will of fighting for it. The dark stormy skies can be vanquished by rainbow and the colored balloons, but this asks for the power of closing the eyes and living the dream.




‘Fears and Hopes’ connects past and future through the figure of the fragile pregnant woman. The staging of the work (not only of this one actually) reminded me Tarkovsky’s Stalker (the ultimate surrealist film in the Russian cinema?)





Last in my personal selection for this review is ‘Center of the Universe’. It’s a much more optimistic work, to some extend the continuation of the work above and of a few other with the pregnant woman in the center. The Child is born, and as so many of us know from our personal experiences, she or he becomes the Center of the Universe, the dance and celebration and joy around will eventually win over the stormy skies. It is the work that welcomes the visitor when entering the exhibition, and the last one he sees when departing it.




I have selected to write only about a few of the works in the exhibition. There are many more, and each deserves being viewed at its real dimension and asks for contemplation and thinking. Dina Bova is one of the best artists I have met lately on the Israeli art scene. I have maybe one regret and this is that this beautiful exhibition is not hosted by one of the central galleries in Tel Aviv, but I am sure that this will happen sooner than later. By the way, Kfar Shmaryahu is only 15 minutes away from Tel Aviv, the space in the Weil Center and the conditions of exhibiting are generous, and there is plenty of parking around. So – do not miss this exhibition!

The artist’s Web site is Her Facebook page is

For the Israel Independence Day this year I chose to present a cycle of works who have entered already the thesaurus of the Israeli and Zionist artistic mythology. Many of the visitors of the recent exhibition of the works of Salvador Dali in Haifa were surprised to see that one full wall was occupied by what seemed to be a real declaration of love for Israel and the Jewish people, while in the same room other paintings, statues, objects which looked very much like Judaica art completed the image.




There have been multiple discussions and interpretations concerning the history of this cycle of 25 prints published first in an edition of 250 copies in 1968. What was the real attitude of Salvador Dali towards the Jews, taking into account that contrary to many of his fellow artists in the surrealist generation he showed sympathy for Hitler and chose to stay and live in Franco’s Spain? Did he change his political views in time? Was he a descendant of the converted Jews keeping in secret his Jewish ascendance?  The answer is maybe simple, but we should avoid to make it simplistic. It’s a commissioned work, ordered and paid by the  Shorewood Publishing and Israel Bonds in 1968 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the State of Israel. And yet there is more than this, because the exploration of the Jewish theme seems to have extended in Dali’s work well beyond this commission. Yes, the market of the Judaica (Jewish traditional) art may have been a lucrative one among the prosperous collectors, many of Jewish origin. The works in this cycle and beyond have however feeling, sensitivity, and I may say a dose of respect which is somehow unexpected from the extravagant artist who did not hesitate to blow artistic and taste conventions.

Let us walk though a few of these works, and try to explain their meaning from the perspective of the Zionist angle. I have used some of the commentaries written by David Blumentahl at (You can see there also all the drawings in the cycle)




A few of the first drawings in the cycle connect the reality of present Israel to the historical roots of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. One of these is ‘The Wailing Wall’ - the last reminiscent of the walls of the Second Temple, which is drawn by Dali from photos taken before the War of Independence (there is a large plaza today in front of the Wall, and men and women are not allowed to pray together, at least at this moment in time (there is a whole dispute regarding the enforcement of the Orthodox rules in this place raging today).




‘Out of the Depth’ takes its title from a verse in the Psalms “Out of the depths have I called unto you, O Lord.” It’s the name of the cantata by Bach and the phrase was used by Martin Buber for a small book of Psalms translated into German and published in Nazi Germany in 1936. The horror of the Holocaust is in the Zionist narrative the very foundation and the ultimate justification of the existence of the national home of the Jewish people.




‘On the Shores of Freedom’  shows one episode of the illegal immigration which in the years after the end of the second world war and the independence of Israel brought to Israel survivors of the Holocaust despite the blockade imposed by the British rulers over Palestine. The name of the ship can be clearly seen, it’s Elyahu Golomb which dates the episode described in the painting in the year 1946.




‘A Moment in History’ processes a famous photograph in which David Ben-Gurion reads the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, on May 15, 1948. Ben-Gurion wears a tie, it is said it was the only time in his life when he wore such a garment. He also seems to have a Dali mustache?




The exultation of the moment of the proclamation of the independence was immediately followed in the historical narrative by the fire of the War of Independence. This is the moment caught by Dali in ‘The Battle of the Jerusalem Hills’.




Victory and celebration are represented by Hatikvah, a visual representation of the national anthem of Israel. The words were written by the Jewish-Polish poet Naphtali Herz Imber during his stay in the Romanian city of Iasi in 1877, and the music is a transcription by Samuel Cohen of a tune popular in Eastern Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Cohen later recalled that he had heard first the tune in the Romanian variant – Carul cu boi [The Ox Driven Cart] (source The same tune inspired the opening of the very popular symphonic poem Vltava by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana




Commission or not, Salvador Dali created a series of work which are among the best in the Jewish and national Israeli imagery. I will let Blumenthal speak again (source

As for the “Aliyah” series, Blumenthal concludes simply that it was a professionally executed commission, pointing out that some of the greatest artworks in history have been as much — compositions by Mozart and Bach and, this writer would add, paintings by Rafael, Rembrandt and others. “Part of the responsibility of a scholar is to say that this stuff, even if it’s commissioned, is serious,” Blumenthal said. Indeed, when one lets the art of “Aliyah” speak for itself, its bold expressionism and moving imagery answer the question on their own.

Hag Atzmaut Sameah! Happy Independence Day! Happy Birthday, Israel!


My round through the local museums in Israel took me a few weeks ago to Bat Yam where the local museum of art opens for the young generation of artists coming the countries of the ex-Eastern block and especially from the former Soviet Union. The name of the exhibition Cargo Cult says something about commercialization and the relation of the artists with the world of technology and materials, airports and transportation machinery, but also about their own journey of the one made by their parents to the new old country. variety of means, very non-conventional means, nothing from the balance and some would say the stiffness of the traditional Russian art




The museum is by itself one of the most original structures that I have seen lately, a cylindrical building dwarfed by one of these water towers which are part of the local landscape in any Israeli city and were part of the mythology of the Jewish settlements in the first decades of their existence.




A few years ago I visited an exhibition at the Museum of Contemportary Art in Ramat Gan which was gathering works of Russian immigrants formed at the solid realistic schools of art in the former Soviet Union who had immigrated to Israel. There is almost nothing similar in ‘Cargo Cult’. This is undeniably an exhibition of young artists living in Israel. Sure, this is a specific sector of the art community in Israel, and these young folks are not denying but openly affirming their roots but they also have a clear approach to art and the materials art is made of that is post-modernist and their dialog with the culture of the area they or their parents came from is sustained from here.


Ivars Gravlejs from Riga gathers in his Shopping Poetry project objects acquired in shops and supermarkets and photographs them near their cash counter invoice in a reflection of the relationship between object and value, between the image and its numerical representation.




One of the older generation artists is Moscow-born Mikhail Grobman born in 1939 invited several young artists to make fluorescent replicas of works by Grobman. The semi-dark room raises questions and thoughts about the works and their amplification through reproduction.




Maxim Komar-Myshkin was born in Moscow in 1978 and died in Tel Aviv in 2011. I do not know how to describe his unusual creations – maybe stellar works?




New Barbizon Group is a team of five female artists – each creates a group of drawings and paintings reflecting reality and including probably the strongest social messages of the works in the exhibition abut the condition of women, artists, immigrants in a society like ours.




A separate room gathers Igor Guelman-Zak’s miniatures and a big neon-lights panel labeled Change – bringing to our attention the reality and scope of art, and the relativity of the relationship as expressed in the dimensions of the two very different groups of works.

An interesting exhibition and a refreshing view of an artistic community which showed up among us, another lesser known result of the immigration in a country that continues to be a melting from many points of view including art.

Intr-unul din locurile cel mai putin verosimile se afla una dintre cele mai neobisnuite galerii de arta pe care le-am vizitat. Kibbutzul Beeri este situat in sudul Israelului, nu departe de Netivot si Shderot, langa fasia Gaza, zona care se afla in stiri mai mult cand sunt violente, atacuri cu rachete, actiuni ale armatei israeliene in Gaza. Este si o zona de agricultura intensiva, si care la acest sfarsit de iarna israeliana arata verde si inflorit, relativ desigur la peisajul si clima aride din cea mai mare parte a anului.




Cateva indicatoare destul de modeste dar totusi vizibile te ghideaza spre casa care nu arata altfel decat multe dintre casele din jur si care se deosebeste doar prin firma – Galeria Beeri. Eu nu o cunosteam, dar acum stiu – galeria aceasta exista din 1986 si pana astazi au fost organizate aici peste 300 de expozitii – Acum Galeria Beeri este prima gazda israeliana a expoitiei Spiritul Sapantei rezultate din colaborarea dintre artisti israelieni si romani, expozitie realizata cu sprijinul ICR Tel Aviv.




Banuiesc ca majoritatea cititorilor stiu multe despre Maramures si despre Sapanta, acest loc special celbru prin al sau Cimitir Vesel. Ceea ce probabil mai putini stiu si eu in orice caz nu cunosteam aceasta istorie este ca pana la al doilea razboi mondial peste un sfert din populatia satului era evreiasca (sursa - O comunitate ca mii de alte comunitati din estul Europei distrusa de Holocaust. Majoritatea evreilor Sapantei au fost deportati in 1944 de jandarmii unguri colaboratori ai ocupantilor germani, putini s-au intors de la Auschwitz si cei intorsi nu au mai ramas in sat. Recomand oricui vine sa viziteze expozitia sa asculte video-ul cu Poemul lui Vasile - o lucrare impresionanta a unui poet popular local, care in stilul specific poeziei populare romanesti descrie istoria evreilor din Sapanta.




Spiritul Sapantei este rezultatul muncii comune a doi artisti israelieni si a unui artist local roman, care au lucrat impreuna in sat in vara lui 2012. Expozitia a fost prima data deschisa in cladirea sinagogii din Bistrita. Mai sus ii puteti vedea pe cei doi artisti israelieni (Nora Stanciu si Haim Maor) reprezentati in stilul portretelor de Sapanta de catre artistul roman Dumitru Pop Tincu.




Ce diferit si ce special arata scrisul in ebraica tesut pe stergarele specifice Maramuresului! Oare evreii Sapantei de acum un secol vor fi avut si folosit stergare asemanatoare?






Portretele lui Dumitru Pop Tincu creaza intr-un fel modelul de referinta al expozitiei. Artistul continua traditia portretisticii din faimosul Cimitir vesel cu subiecte inspirate printre altele din ciclurile vietii si din momentele esentiale care marcheaza viata oamenilor din sat.






Haim Manor da replica artistului roman prin picturi pe lemn, care redau in acelasi stil pseudo-naiv persoane si personaje din lumea satului.






Lucrarile Norei Stanciu sunt mai mari in dimensiuni si mai elaborate. Una dintre ele suprapune motivul pictural cu cel al broderiilor, alta arta-mestesug specifica zonei. A doua preia motivele ale culturii ‘elevate’ intr-o inramare specifica artei populare.

Expozitia este deschisa la Beeri pana la mijlocul lui martie, dupa cate am inteles in continuuare va fi prezentata si in alte locuri in Israel si o recomand celor interesati – si ca valoare documentara, si emotionala, dar si pentru o intalnire mai putin obisnuita intre spatii culturale indepartate geografic, dar cu multe apropieri culturale.




The beautiful Saturday last week allowed us to walk to the local art museum which in the last few years hosted several interesting exhibitions, bringing together contemporary artists from Israel and from all around the world.




The theme of the current exhibition is Theatrical Gestures and you will find the rationale of the name if you read the explanatory text on the Web pages of the museum – the relation between the artist and the work, looking at the world as a stage, incorporating images, characters and words and making sense of them in a world where our time and senses are so much put at stress from so many directions. I would not say that I got it completely, but the theme seems to me generic enough to bring together almost any work of art, and in this case it’s a collection of works from The Angel Collection of Contemporary Art which otherwise would have been impossible for me to see ever. After the great show if Israeli art at Ein Harod a few years ago it’s the second time I see in Israel that important works from private collections are brought for viewing in museums, and this is a trend to salute.

Here are a few of the works that drew my attention. There are many things to appreciate in this exhibition and I surely recommend a visit for everybody who is interested in contemporary art and happens to be in Herzlya or central Israel in the next few months.




The work of Mathew Day Jackson Ain’t dead yet(based on Chief Bigfoot) mixes elements of American folklore and … Brancusi (yes, the head of The Sleeping Muse). Close to it we see two works by Israel star photographer Adi Ness inspired by the characters and situations of the Bible enacted by contemporary models.




Canadian artist David Altmejd builds a classically shaped bird out of human hands – the effect mixes attraction and horror.




In another room California-born  Matthew Monahan‘s Scoria Pyre (a strange monster made of bronze and steel) stares at the huge Fan #6 created by Israeli artist  Yehudit Sasportas - a fusion mix of industrial techniques and Oriental crafts, of European landscape represented by means of traditional Japanese painting techniques.




The Japanese influence is present also in another room, where Don Brown‘s YOKO XVIII shares space with two works by Japanese painter Chiho Aoshima who bear a magic and uneasy eroticism drawn with manga techniques.




Vik Muniz is probably one of the best know names among the artists in the Angel collection and in the exhibition at the Herzlya Museum because of his documentary film Waste Land  which describes the transformation by the power of art of a community near Rio living near a huge waste deposit. To some the two works exposed now in Herzlya continue the same motive – the one pictured here is reprezentation of a mythological theme realized with waste material.




The exhibition of German artist Ulla von Brandenburg does not belong to the same collection, but aligns with the subject of the exhibition. Chorspiel is a huge spiral-shaped wall one walks inside to find a sung family drama being projected by the video installation in the center. 

The current exhibitions are open until April 20.


The annual exhibition of the best professional photo-journalism pictures of the year, as selected by the World Press jury combined with the selection of the best Israeli press photographs is open as each of the last few years at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. I visited it today, it is open for another couple of weeks and I recommend to all folks interested in art, in reality and in the combination of the two not to miss it.



The World Press Photo competition for 2012 dealt in two rounds of jury selection with photographs reflecting a large number of events that took place in the previous year (2011). It was the year of the Arab Spring, of the social protests all over the world, of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, of the continuous confrontation of man with nature and of nature with man.




Photo of the year was Samuel Aranda’s picture of a mother holding in her arms her son wounded in the protests in Yemen. With it’s Pieta quality this photo may remain one of the iconic images of what is called the Arab Spring, beyond the political approach or opinions one may have about the events.



The photographs in the exhibition belong to professional photographers, people who travel all over, putting their talents to the service of audiences interested in reality but also in sensation, in truth and also in esthetics. Taking some of the these pictures meant also personal risks and a few photo-journalists lost their lives in this eventful year. The questions of the relation between journalism and art, between the documentary value and the beauty of the photographs as art object are still open, such events will not provide necessary responses but material for thought.

Here are a few more pictures from the exhibition.




The earthquake and tsunami in Japan and their aftermath occasioned many spectacular pictures, among which the striking work of Paolo Pellegrin.




Brent Stirton’s photo of armed guards keeping 24 hours shifts around one of the six animals left of their kind surviving in the world tell a lot about

More information about Word Press 12 and more works can be seen at




What did the Israeli photographers catch on their camera during this year? Some of the answers in the Local Testimony section which this year equals in dimensions the international one.

They have photographed the social protest – in this case it’s an episode from one of the demonstrations of the members of the Ethiopian community against discrimination as caught on Uri Sadeh’s camera.




Many photographs and even photography exhibitions (I visited one at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem a few weeks ago) dealt with the ultra-religious community which is ‘re-discovered’ by Israeli secular audiences. This picture with a a classical touch is taken at a wedding by Abir Sultan.




Nature confronting urban reality is the subject of this photo taken in an Israeli city after a strong storm at the end of February last year.


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