Did I already say that I love exploring small art museums? Of course, I also love even more visiting the great museums of the world, but the experience of finding a small museum in a not-so-important city, in a remote and sometimes unexpected place in the world is also a source of satisfaction and sometimes of wonderful surprises. This is the case with the Glass Art Museum in Arad (the Israeli city of Arad, not the Romanian one) which I wanted to see for quite a while and I eventually got to last week.



Located in the outskirts of the city of Arad, in an industrial area turned into artists’ district, the museum is easy to find when traveling to or from the Dead Sea. Established by the Fridman family, it aims to be an open house for all artists and fans of glass art. The experience of the visit is quite pleasant as visitors are guided by one of the four permanent guides, one of them being the house artist Gideon Fridman, whose works occupy most of the space (but the museum also hosts works of other artists working in the media).




Fridman started to work in glass about 17 years ago, and he does not blow glass, but rather uses recycled glass of all sorts which he processes using techniques of his own. One of the effects he discovered and masters allows for the work to change shape depending on the angle you are looking at it. The guides will help you walk in between the works and observe the unique effects, as well as the special way of lighting used in the museum, where light does not fall directly on the works, but on the walls and cellar, and the passing of the light though the material creates the shapes.

Here are a few of the many remarkable works, but I should warn from start that a full understanding of the art in the Arad Glass Art Museum is complete only if you get there, move in between the works, and get the dynamics of the interaction between glass, movement, viewers.



‘A Female Heritage’



‘All My Sons’ - an impressive memorial work



‘The Wall of Spirit’ - the interpretation is left free to the viewer, I was impressed by the missing places, as well as by the occupied ones.



‘Violence 99′ is quite different in style from the majority of the other works, but the message is striking.



The name of this work ‘Genesis 2:23′ alludes to the creation of Eve in the Bible. Nine statues as the nine months of human pregnancy, nine steps in the evolution of Woman, from the slim curve of Adam’s Rib, through growth, youth, maturity to the eventual decay.



‘Yirimiahu 2:2′ sends us to another quote from the Bible, telling the story of Abraham, the son he embraces, and the other son – Ishmael. A dot of blood reminds the conflict between the descendents of Abraham, painfully open until the modern times.



A separate room in the museum hosts in darkness a huge candle, lit from inside, a symbol of remembrance for the Holocaust. It could as well be hosted at Yad Vashem.


We spent the morning yesterday at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. The focus was on the two exhibitions of photography that are scheduled to close this weekend, we visited a few more, actually all had photography as their only or principal means of expression.


(video source ScottishParl)


World Press Photo is a foundation that supports high quality photo-journalism and documentary photography. It organizes each year a contest where the best photos published in the press are being gathered and get recognition through prizes which are probably the most important in photo-journalism. The exhibitions with the best photographs of the year are organized world-wide.




The show in Tel Aviv presented exhibition 2011 – the winners and their works can be seen at The photography of the year was the portrait of the young Afghan woman Bibi Aisha disfigured as a punishment by the Taliban for fleeing he husband’s house after being subjected to a forced marriage, photo taken by the South African Jodi Bieber for the cover of TIME Magazine. An interview with the photographer can be read at




I was impressed by the striking picture which got the first prize in the Nature category, took by Thomas Peschak a contributing photographer to National Geographic representing a Cape gannet landing during the nesting season.




The majority of the photos in the exhibition present a distressing view of a world full of violence, conflicts, natural catastrophies than men are unable to cope with, or made worse by human. I have chosen to show here a less graphic picture (there are pleny of those, you can see them on the Web site) by extremely expressive taken by the Italian photographer Ivo Saglietti which gethers the attention of the viewer on human grief.


source Shmuel Lesched


The World Press 2011 exhibition is joined in the same pavilion by the Israeli replica Local Testimony 2011 (see also which shows the best journalism and documentary photos taken in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The reality shown here is complex and violent, full of conflicts and oddities. Have a look on the Web site! I have chosen a photo by  Lior  Patel whose Web page can be accessed at It shows a character and tells a story which I believe is so significant for the place where we live. The man in the photo is Shmuel Lesched, he is a Holocaust survivor aged 100, who callks himself Der MusikClown, making a precarious living on the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv.




A Yemenite Portrait is another exhibition which opened recently, telling a different type of story. It gathers photographs (some of striking quality and expressiveness) and documentary material from the history of the Yemenite Jews, telling the story of a community which started to return to the land of Israel at the end of the 19th century, but also of the relation with the more majority (then) Jewish community of immigrants from Europe who were also the photographers who took most of the pictures.

More information and reviews of the exhibition can be found at




Aproximately in the same period were taken most of the photos in the exhibition named Images from the Land of the Bible The photographers where the Christian inhabitants of the American Colony, the photos where taken between 1898 and 1935, and many of them ended  in the US Library of Congress as one of the latest photographers took them to the US at the end of the 30s. The technique is colored printings of the originally black-and-white photos, and they present a different angle then the pictures taken by the Jewish inhabitants of the same period which focused on the life of the Jewish settlers working and fighting to turn the Zionist dream into reality. The American Colony photographers took mostly pictures of the Arab inhabitants, with an idealistic view that projected their way of life against the Biblical landscape. As the Yemenite portraits exhibit this was another variant of the Orientalistic approach.




The last exhibition we saw yesterday was ATA – Factory, Fashion and Dream which introduces the visitors into the history of one of the factories that marked the industrial development of Jewish Palestine and later Israel in the first decades of its existence. Founded by the Czech Jewish family Moller in the 30s, ATA was in its half century of existence a model of Zionist entrepreneurship, of early Israel development, capitalist accumulation and work conflicts, symbol of local and international fashion. By the mid 80s the realities of the fast progressing modern industry pushed ATA as the whole textile industry in crisis. I remember (this was in our first years in Israel) the protests, the dismay, the way it ended. One of the Israeli legends.

At last I succeeded to get to Jerusalem and visit the exhibition I have already read so much about, witnessed so many discussions and disputes, and even written about its catalog, or better say the catalog of the first staging of the exhibition at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. Now it is the turn of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to host the exhibition, named here Jewish Avant-Garde Artists from Romania, which is open until April.




All the disputes set aside, the works in the exhibition make a strong and credible case about the role of the Jewish artists from Romania in the Avant-Garde movements of the first half of the 20th century. The three exhibition halls include enough solid pieces of art that bear witness about the quality of the artists and their perfect integration with all the main streams of the period including post-Impressionsm, Dadaism, cubism, expressionism, surrealism. This exhibition does not need to demonstrate influences, it actually proves that the Jewish artists from Romania were a significant part of the revolution in art that was happening and that especially in the 20s Bucharest was one of the principal centers of the avant-garde.

The visitors need to pay attention where they start their tour, as the main entry of the exhibition seems to be in the second hall. Actually it is the first hall with the the poster and newpapers poll and the window including some of the representative journals of the Romania avant-garde where the journey starts. Unfortunately there are too little background explanations and most of the visitors of the exhibition may be quite uninformed about the history of Romania (as were a group of three younger folks I met there who were wondering when was Romania occupied by the Nazis). The informative timeline in the catalog would have been so useful.

Arthur Segal‘s works are presented in the first room. I would not really include Segal in the avant-garde, as he belongs to an older generation, but his works connect to some of the important trends of the beginning of the century like post-Impressionism and Pointillism.  Woman Reading is one of the best examples. His work and teaching influenced some of the artists of the next generation.




The Dada moment is amply represented in the exhibition with documents and works of Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco (Iancu) that include the ball scenes at the Cabaret Voltaire (which I like a lot) and some of the masks created for the theater there that remind and connect to the curiosity of the artists of the period for ‘primitive’ art and its different forms of expressions (we find works with similar themes at Brancusi and Modigliani realized at about the same time or a couple of years earlier).




As I was guessing from the catalog, the revelation of the exhibition are the works of M.H. Maxy (above you can see Nude with Veil). His Cubist paintings from the 20s show a strong and original artist, exuberant in colors and sure on his means, exploring and breaking the reality in pieces to mend it back into sophisticated mosaics of geometric forms and striking colors. The fate of this artist invites to a reflection about how artists make compromises and bend under the hard times. His deplorable work made in the 60s when he tries to reconnect with the revolutionary art he was part of 40 years before but cannot exceed the limitations of his own compromises with the ‘Socialist Realism’ makes the strong backwards point of reference.



The same second room includes several of the early works (from the 1920s) of Victor Brauner. A few double side painted canvases draw the attention, as well a few works brought from the Eco-Museum Research Institute in Tulcea (city located the Western edge of the Danube Delta). I wonder how these paintings got there, this may be an interesting story. I was a bit disappointed to see none of the major works of Brauner from his Surrealist period included in the exhibition.




Another artist who compromised with times and had his own period of abandoning revolution in art for the mirages of the Communist revolution was Jules Perahim. He is present is Jerusalem with a few works from his young days (including  Organic Lanscape) in the third and last room which is largely dedicated to younger generation of Jewish artists who appeared in the 30s to be brought down by the persecutions of the World War to re-surge shortly in the mid 40s just to be buried back by the Communist taking over Romania. That was the end of the Avant-Garde, and the Jewish artists made no exception although the personal destinies of the artists in the exhibition were quite different.  Janco came to Israel in 1941, at the time of the darkest period in the history of Romania and of the Jewish community, to become a leader of school in the Israeli painting and head of the artists community in Ein Hod. Tzara and Victor Brauner were living for decades in Europe and never returned to Romania. Maxy and Jules Perahim stayed in Romania (Perahim emigrated later) and compromised in order to survive as artists. The pages in the history of the European art that include the contributions of the Jewish artists from Romania were closed, but their work survives and this exhibition is a proof of their quality and importance.



I spent last week a few days in Bilbao, my first time in this city. It was a business trip, and I had only a few hours to spare which I tried to use at best in order to get at least a taste of what is an interesting and beautiful city in an area of Europe which is certainly worth a longer trip and a vacation, to know and enjoy it. I hope to be back some day.

The first meeting with the city is with the airport designed by the famous Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. It’s a doubled wing like structure, quite impressive seen for distance, less in the interior.

The city is a real playground of some of the world’s most famous architects. Since the 1980s the Basque Country is governed by an autonomous government which embarked in ambitious plans that changed the region and the city of Bilbao from a rusty industrial town to a vibrant European point of attraction for hi-tech and business, for art and international events. Here is the hotel where I stayed, the Melia (former Sheraton) designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Leggorreta.

From the hotel room I could see what is one of the characteristics of the city – the melding of old and new construction, the careful urban design and the insertion of modern art (especially sculptures) in one integral vision.

The next morning was Sunday and I used a few hours before the start of the convention to walk the area and reach the landmark of the city – the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The area was a former harbor terrain, by the river which is actually an estuary bringing ships from the Atlantic, an area which in the 70s had fallen in decay. It was redesigned and brought back in the circuit of the city life. The most recent Master Plan which gave the whole environment its look of today belongs to the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid and was started in 2004. In the picture you can see one of the example of the renovation and recovery of the past periods in the history and architecture of Bilbao with the Universidad Literaria de Deusto, built in 1886-1887, the largest building in the 19th century Bilbao, designed by an architect with remarkable classic works in Madrid – Francisco de Cubas.

The newest addition is the Torre Iberdrolla 165 meters, a 41 stores office building designed by Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli.

Near-by the less daring by yet very interesting Biblioteca de la Universidad de Deusto – Rafael Moneo Vales, with slightly irregular lines, combining roundness and angles.

And then, I turned the river bend and I saw – one of these buildings I read so much about, I expected to see and visit for many years – Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao. It is impressing and I loved it, with the external titanium cover absorbing and reflecting light and colors from the sky and the city and integrating its folded surfaces into the landscape around.

I walked around it – one of the best views can be taken from the nearby bridge with the proenade on the water guarded by the out-of-this-world sculpture ‘Maman’ by Louis Bourgeois.

Huge and yet sweet and familiar Jeff Koon’s ‘Puppy’ guards the entrance to the museum.


The space inside reminds to some extent the spiral structure of the Guggenheim in Manhattan. The feeling that the museum building is as much an object of art and an objective of the architect as the works of art that are being hosted by the museum cannot be escaped.


One of the permanent installments is Richard Serra’s ‘The Matter of Time’ - a series of labyrinths, walls and passages, made of the rusty iron materials that made the ships in the docks that formerly occupied the place where the museum is now located.

Balthus - 'The Street' - source

Two temporary exhibitions were open last Sunday. The one I spent most of the time (and which was closing that day) was ‘Chaos and Classicism: art in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, 1918-1936′, which started with a selection of Otto Dix’s sketches from the battlefields or representing the human aftermath of the First World War and ends with monumental Fascist dedicated to Mussolini or the preferred paintings hanging in one of Adolf Hitler’s offices. It was a very intriguing review of the other facet of the art between the two world wars, the one that opposed the innovation of the avangarde (although some of the surrealist and cubist artists also played with the concept).

(video source efeinternational)

The second, still open is ‘The Luminous Interval: The D. Daskalopoulous Collection’ - mix of large scale installments of contemporary art, of various tastes and trends – so I liked some more, some less.

Mona Hatoum’s ‘Current Disturbance’ which I had seen last year at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem was one of the works exposed – actually the first one just near the entrance as I entered the museum.

The audio-guide is very informative and included in the ticket price.

THE Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall designed by architects Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios on the site of the former Euskalduna Shipyard was the building that hosted the W3C standard meeting which I came for in Bilbao.

I had little time for the rest of the week. One evening I went out for a short walk to the center of the city and I took a few photos. here is how the city looks, combining churches and classical 19th century buildings with modern additions.

Another visual element are the metro entries named by the locals forestitos. In 1988 the city opened a bid for the design of the metro stations which was won by British architect Norman Foster.

The last day I used a couple of free hours to visit the Museum of Fine Arts located in the Dona Casilda Park – another combination of an old building with modern extensions, with a work by Serra in front of it. The permanent collection offers a solid path through the history of the local and European art.


I had much too little time for the two temporary exhibitions in the museum. One was dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Chilean artist Roberto Matta – creator of monumental art, inventor of imaginary words worth exploring.

(video source LookingForArsMundi)

The second belongs to local artist Daniel Tamayo.

May 1st was a beautiful day in Amsterdam this year. I had a few free hours at the beginning of a short but busy business trip and as in many cases I looked for opportunities to visit art museums and galleries. With the city waking up after the Dutch national day which is celebrated each year on April 30 with a big party in the streets, and with the Rijksmuseum in eternal renovation the best choice seemed to be the ‘Picasso in Paris’ show at the  Van Gogh Museum.

(video source atVanGoghMuseum)

The exhibition is realized in collaboration with the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and marks with paintings, photographs and documents the first seven years spent by Picasso in Paris, since his first arrival here in 1900 until 1907. His first stay in Paris lasted only a few months, he was 19 and spoke no word of French. He spent most of his time in museums absorbing the art of the masters as well as of the Impressionist and contemporary artists. A short stay in Barcelona was followed by the return to Paris and the suicide of his good friend Carles Casagemas in 1901. This was the start of the darker mood ‘Blue’ period. It was also a time of social integration, with Picasso befriending Max Jacob, becoming a regular of the cabarets in Montmartre, and settling his studio in the dilapidated building of Bateau Lavoir.


With the change in mood came also the diversification of style and themes. The Montmartre typology and clowns entered his universe, to remain here for the next seventy years of his artistic career.


By 1907 the first big step of his artistic evolution was completed. In the last works in the exhibition we can see Picasso starting to experiment with the decomposition of forms and the geometrical patterns that will become the building blocks of the cubist revolution. In an ideal world of arts this exhibition should have ended with the painting that symbolizes the birth of modern art – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Unfortunately the Van Gogh Museum could not get it from MoMA, but we can imagine it in a virtual last room in our imagination.

I then spent another couple of hours in the museum, visiting together with one of my American colleagues the Van Gogh collection. The museum underwent a serious renovation since I first visited it around 1994, and although the structure of the Van Gogh collection is basically the same (his decade of creation divided in periods according to the place and years, works of art that surrounded him in his time), the exhibition space and visiting conditions are much more better than the ones I remembered. The museum which was surprisingly crowded for an out-of-season afternoon is a mandatory visit for any Van Gogh fan. Out in the still sunny daylight I photographed some trees with Van Gogh yellow colored flowers.


On the way back to the hotel we walked Spiegelgracht which seems to be a street of art galleries and old books shops. Our attention was drawn by the Wuyt Gallery at number 32 of the street, which gathers and sells certified graphic art by Mark Chagall.


Especially beautiful are the lithographic designs of the windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel that can be found in the Synagogue at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. Watch some of the series in the Web site of the gallery at


One last exhibition I will mention will open however only in a few weeks. The name of the exhibition is  From Dada to Surrealism: Jewish Avant-Garde Artists from Romania, 1910-1938 and is hosted by the Jewish Historical Museum (which is located close to the hotel I have stayed at in Amsterdam). The exhibition will do hopefully a long waited reparation reminding that Romania was one of the important centers of the artistic avant-garde in the period between the two world wars, and that many of its most renowned artists (Tzara, Janco, Brauner, Maxy) were Jewish, and that they were fighting not only to promote their art but also to express their identities in the complex and in many instances hostile environment of the period. The exhibition will also open in December at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, until them some details can be found at

Din recentul nostru periplu bucurestean nu puteau sa lipseasca vizitele in muzee si salile de expozitii. Din pacate am ratat la milimetru doua expozitii care s-au inchis exact in ziua sosirii noastre. Si totusi am reusit sa vedem cateva lucruri interesante chiar si in aceasta saptamana inainte de Paste, cand unele dintre spatiile de expunere se pregateau de vacanta sau de schimbarea expozitiilor.


Descoperirea numarul unu a acestei vizite a fost fara indoiala Muzeul National Cotroceni institutie despre a carei existenta nu stiam mai nimic si cred ca ar trebui sa fiu cam rusinat din acest motiv. Spatiul de pe Dealul Cotrocenilor pe care in copilarie il cunosteam ca Palatul Pionierilor devenise inaccesibil majoritatii romanilor dupa cutremurul din 1977 cand Ceausescu a hotarit renovarea sa pentru a deveni rezidenta oficiala pentru oaspetii presedintelui. In cursul renovarii au fost recuperate si renovate cea mai mare parte a incaperilor noului palat construit in 1895 pentru a servi ca resedinta a printului mostenitor si viitorului rege Ferdinand, dar au fost si distruse urme mai vechi ale cladirilor din zona si in special biserica Cotroceni cu hramul Adormirii Maicii Domnului (reconstruita dupa 1990). Arhitectura palatului completeaza si complementeaza seria de palate construite de casa regala a Romaniei din care fac parte si Pelesul si Pelisorul din Sinaia. Pentru a vedea o parte din incaperile palatului puteti sa alegeti ‘Tur Virtual’ la


In pretul de baza al biletului intra si vizitarea expozitiei istorice dedicata doamnei Elena Cuza, cea dintai Prima Doamna a Romaniei.


Expozitiile de arta (cu plata suplimentara) sunt cele care ne-au atras in mod deosebit atentia. Superba este retrospectiva Iosif Iser care sub titlul modest ‘Univers cromatic Iosif Iser’ aduna creatii ale artistului din muzeele de arta centrale si regionale din tara. Expozitia acopera toate etapele importante ale creatiei artistului si temele principale ale picturii sale. Un catalog excelent insoteste expozitia care ar merita un spatiu mai central chiar si la Muzeul National de Arta, sau macar mai multa publicitate.


‘Theodor Aman pictor si gravor’ este o alta expozitie de pictura care merita sa fie vizitata. Cum muzeul Aman din spatele Bibliotecii Centrale Universitare este inchis de mai multi ani (renovarea pare terminata, cel putin la exterior dar …) vizitarea acestei expozitii este probabil singura alternativa de a vedea reunite cele mai importante opere ale unuia dintre pictorii romani nationali impreuna cu lucrari mai putin cunoscute, care lumineaza perioade si aspecte mai putin cunoscute ale creatiei sale. Cunoastem cu totii tablourile aproape ‘oficiale’ ale lui Tudor Vladimirescu sau scena Unirii sau portrete cum este cel al lui Ioan Heliade-Radulescu. Ceea ce poate mai putini stiu este ca Aman a creat si multe peisaje si portrete de mici dimensiuni, a cunoscut si a fost influentat si de academismul francez dar si de inceputurile impresionismului, si tocmai aceste lucrari mai putin cunoscute mie, dar radiind frumusete si expresivitate mi-au placut cel mai mult. Si aceasta expozitie are un catalog excelent. Expozitiile Iser si Aman sunt deschise pana la sfarsitul lui mai.


Tripticul expozitiilor de arta este completat de o expozitie a lucrarilor lui Theodor Pallady din colectia Muzeului de Arta din Craiova, cu glosse pe tema ‘boieriei’ sale – noblete de spita si de atitudine. Cu toate ca sunt in expozitie cateva lucrari remarcabile expozitia pare (poate si in comparatie cu celelalte doua) mai ‘subtire’.


La Muzeul National de Arta al Romaniei singura expozitie care atrage atentia este cea intitulata ‘Marianne, muza a creatorilor’. Este o combinatie interesanta care porneste de la costumele create de creatorii de moda si costume Alfred Choubrac şi Minon pentru filmele franceze de la inceputul secolului trecut care aveau ca personaj principal pe Marianne – simbolul feminin al Frantei, al valorilor si al frumusetii galice. In completarea litografiilor de epoca sunt aduse creatii ale unui sir de designeri si creatori de moda francezi si romani care dezvolta si ei subiectul Marianne si creaza cate o rochie sau costum in interpretarea proprie a fiecaruia.

Palatul Shutzu

Un alt muzeu redescoperit in aceasta vizita a fost Muzeul Municipiului Bucuresti. Il vizitasem poate ca elev, dar il uitasem in timp si acum multumita colegilor de liste internetice l-am redescoperit.

Palatul Shutzu - scarile interioare

Splendida cladire care il adaposteste este Palatul Shutzu din piata Universitatii construit de arhitectii vienezi Johann Veit si Conrad Schwinck in 1833-1844 si cu interioarele proiectate de sculptorul si decoratorul Karl Storck pe la 1862. De atunci dateaza holul de intrare, elegantele scari interioare si ceasul propectat sa fie vazut de la intrare in oglinda, de fapt mergand invers sensului acelor de ceasornic obisnuite.

ceasul in oglinda

In secolul 20 cladirea si-a schimbat de mai multe ori destinatia. In timpul primului razboi mondial a fost sediul guvernatorului german al Bucurestilor sub ocupatie, pentru ca in perioada interbelica sa gazduiasca pentru o vreme sediul Primariei. Dupa ce a mai fost sediu de banca si al CEC, din 1959 a devenit muzeu.

Mihaela Stan - icoana

Radu Dinca - icoana in fereastra

In holul de la intrare am putut vizita o frumoasa expozitie de icoane – dovada ca aceasta forma de arta plastica traditionala, dintre cele mai vechi practicate pe teritoriul Romaniei este continuata astazi, in atmosfera de libertate si de renastere religioasa de dupa 1990. Sunt foarte multe lucrari frumoase ale unor artisti ale caror nume din pacate mie nu imi spun prea multe, si care lucreaza in tehnici diferite, de la pictura traditionala pe lemn, gravura in metal, pictura pe sticla, sau tehnici mixte si compozitii mai sofisticate.

biblia lui Serban Cantacuzino in sala de istorie a secolelor 17-18

biroul primarului Capitalei

strazi si numere

Este interesanta si merita un ragaz de vizitare si expozitia permanenta a muzeului. Salile sunt putin cam aglomerate si tehnicile de expunere cam desuete, dar multe dintre exponate, fotografii, documente sunt interesante pentru cei interesati de istoria Bucurestilor sau de istorie in general.


Muzeul National de Istorie al Romaniei se afla intr-o permanenta renovare. Cred ca nu a fost ocazie cand am ajuns aici in ultimul deceniu sa nu gasesc cel putin o parte din muzeu inchisa si colectiile principale macar in parte inaccesibile. Stiind acest lucru am dedicat doar vreo ora vizitarii expozitiei temporare ’70/80 – Tineretea noastra’ – o expozitie documentara care prezinta metodele de recrutare a informatorilor si modul in care era supravegheata de catre Securitate viata cetatenilor Romaniei si in special a tinerilor in vremea comunismului. Recomand vizitarea expozitiei si celor care au trait epoca si celor care au avut sansa de a se naste destul de tarziu pentru a nu cunoaste ce inseamna cu adevarat o dictatura.

Relu si Marijana Bitulescu - stairway to heaven

Relu si Marijana Bitulescu - inger

Relu si Marijana Bitulescu - eva

Sunt multe galerii noi in Bucuresti, dar doua dintre ele situate pe bulevardul Magheru au existat si pe vremea cand locuiam in oras si continua sa fie active si reprezentative. La galeria Simeza expun pana la sfarsitul acestei saptamani artistii de origine din Craiova Relu si Marijana Bitulescu. Am fost atras initial de numele expozitiei - ‘Stairways to Heaven’ – titlul piesei celei mai indragite din repertoriul lui Led Zeppelin, si am parasit galeria dupa ce am cunoscut arta unei perechi de artisti care mi-au placut. O parte din lucrarile lor din aceasta expozitie se ocupa de teme inspirate din Biblie, de relatia dintre personajele principale si simbolistica religioasa in dialog cu materia si modul de exprimare al artistilor. Sunt lucrari interesante, incitante, niciuna dintre ele aproape nu lasa observatorul indiferent, invitand la meditatie si dialog.

Georgeta Grabobschi - Dans - sursa

La galeria Orizont expune Georgeta Grabovschi – pictorita interesanta ale caror jocuri geometrice de forma si culoare mi-au atras atentia, in ciuda modului cam neglijent de expunere (lucrarile pictoritei nu sunt grupate, ci expuse fara o delimitare clara pe registrul superior al peretilor galeriei).


Atelierul de Caricatura

Inchei cu semnalarea unui spatiu de expunere al lucrarilor caricaturistilor bucuresteni creat si patronat de Horatiu Malaele pe strada Smardan, in inima a ceea ce a devenit in ultimii ani zona cea mai fierbinte de divertisment al Bucurestilor. Deschis in toamna trecuta ‘Atelierul de Caricatura’ prezinta un aspect care mie imi era necunoscut al artistului complex care este Malaele si din nou trebuie sa multumesc bunilor prieteni bucuresteni care mi-au revelat si acest detaliu. Despre Malaele si alte fatete ale creatiei sale sper sa gasesc ragaz sa scriu mai in detaliu in curand.

With Japan still in our hearts and minds we went on Saturday morning to visit the exhibitions at the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art in Haifa.

The Tikotin Museum

Beautifully located on the Carmel Mountain this is the best place in Israel to get a taste of the Japanese art and culture.

Felix Tikotin - source

We arrived in time for the guided tour which combined information about the exhibitions and the museum itself. The story of the museum is related to the story of the life of its founder, Felix Tikotin, a German Jew from Dresden, who fought in the German army during the first world war, was a friend of Otto Dix, traveled to Japan and started his art gallery and Far East collection in the post-war Berlin. During the second world war he survived hidden in occupied Holland, lost and regained much of his collection after the war. As his daughter became a Zionist and settled in Israel, he came here and shared part of his time between Israel (Jerusalem and Haifa) and Europe. In 1960 he opened the first museum of Japanese art in the Middle East in Haifa.

Noda Tetsuya - Diary, source

The principal exhibition in the museum is “50″ an exhibition of contemporary Japanese prints created by 50 artists and dedicated to the 50 years of the museum which were celebrated in 2010. The range of styles and techniques represented by the artists in the exhibition is quite extensive, with traditional techniques quite in minority relative to the modern styles synchronized with the modern art in any part of the world. Noda Tetsuya for example combinse photography and woodblock printing, and the two works in the current exhibition at the Tikotin Museum have Israeli themes, as the artist (who is married to an Israeli) travels and created part of his time in Israel.

Tamekane Yoshikatsu - Wing of Fantasy, source

Tamekane Yoshikatsu has a vision that combines and creates symbols of space and colors in a manner that reminded me the traditional Australian art.

Kokeshi - source

Another exhibition that I enjoyed most was a collection if kokeshi – traditional wooden dolls. This is one of the older forms of art expressions that can be found in multiple places in Japan, and which have different origins and functions, from bath massage rubs to mystic functions. Most of them have a wooden head and cylindrical body that allows for exquisite paintings.  Although the origins of the kokeshi can be traced back to the 12th century, it is only recently that collectors started to focus on this original form of crafts that became an art under the hands of the different artists in various areas of Japan.

Tanaka Katsuki - Panoraama , source

The last exhibition included two videos by Tanaka Katsuki, in two different styles. The first Wonder-fall is a tridimensional animation representing human forms in a world of falling objects, with an instability that reminds the recent events and makes the viewer uncertain about the ground he walks on. The second video Pamoraama belongs to the visual drug style which reminds me in forms, color and musical background the psychedelic art at the end of the 60s.

(video source momoCAsweets)

I could not find any of the works on the Internet, but youTube features a few works by Katsuki among which a fragment from ALTOVISION – the work above in the visual drug style.

The three exhibitions are open until June 19. During April another exhibition dedicated to the bonsai art of planting miniature trees will also be open in the museum.

Another exhibition which I visited last week at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv was the very interesting and moving exhibition of photographs named Foto Rachel – open to the public until March 30. It marks and brings testimony from one of the remarkable moments in the fight of survival of the Jewish people, its return to the homeland and the formation of the state of Israel at the end of the 1940s.

foto Rachel

Rachel Fisher was born in Cluj (today in Romania) in 1926 and lives today in Haifa. Her family owned a photo shop and she received her first camera at the age of 15. Cluj was part of Northern Transylvania which fell under Hungarian rule during the second world war, as the Jews of Cluj shared the same fate as all Jews of Hungary (excepting those who were living in Budapest) and were deported to the death camps. From all the family only Rachel and her mother survived. When she returned back to Cluj she married her boyfriend Yehuda and they took the way to Eretz Israel.

behind barbed wires - again

These was the period between the approval of the plan of partition of Palestine by the UN in November 1947 and the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948. The British had closed the gates of Jewish immigration in order not to change the demographic balance of the area, and the immigrants from Europe were deported in camps in Cyprus. These camps operated between 1946 and 1949. Many of the internees were survivor of the death camps. Rachel and her husband arrived in such a camp on January 1st 1948. Soon after they opened a photo shop in the camp, and photographed the life there. 146 negatives survived, and the form the base of the exhibition today.


I know the story from many sources, books and films, but also first hand from my own family. Liliana’s uncle David Moscovici was also interned with his family in such a camp. These were certainly not extermination camps, life was rough but acceptable. The principal pressure was psychological, as people who underwent and survived the Holocaust in Europe were again deprived of their freedom, and prevented to reach the shored of their new country.

the Zionist Worker factory

Yet, they could organize their own economic and social life and prepare for the alyah and the life in the future new state. Workshops opened, and people trained in skills and crafts.

playing games to pass the time

Much of the time was spent in waiting.

sculpture workshop

Arts also started to be created. A sculpture shop created works which were sold.

art exhibition in the camp

Painting was also created here – and exhibitions opened.

Shraga Weil - Winter Camp nr. 65

Here is one of the works belonging to Shraga Weil present in the exhibition. I am not sure if it represents a camp in Cyprus however, or rather reflects his experience during the war – as the wikipedia entry about him says that he immigrated illegally to Palestine in 1947 and settled in kibutz HaOgen without having passed through the camps in Cyprus.

preparing for the wedding

Life continued in the camp in what must have been a strange type of normality. Weddings took place …

a new born in the camp

… and children were born.

May Day parade

Holidays were respected but also the new celebrations of the Socialist beginnings of the young state.

locking the camp

A few months the proclamation of the state the doors of immigration of the state of Israel opened and the camps were closed. Rachel Fisher caught in a picture the last moments of existence of the camp.

What happened with my wife’s uncle? He also reached the state of Israel soon after the proclamation and almost immediately was sent as a medic on the front of the war of Independence. Then he started to work, but the salary of a doctor was not enough to keep a family, so at nights he worked in the orange pardesim in Petakh-Tikvah. In time he became one of the well-known and beloved doctors in Herzlya.

After writing yesterday about the Eretz Israel exhibition about the First Governor of Jerusalem, I was asked about my article on the Hejaz train exhibition. I looked back in my archives and I discovered that it was written a few days before I started the blog and never posted here. Here it is in its original version in Romanian.

Trenul Hejaz

Putem privi ultimul deceniu al secolului 19 si primul deceniu al secolului 20 ca pe o perioada romantica in zona araba a Imperiului Otoman, care isi traia ultima perioada de existenta. Sultanul Abdulhamed al II-lea deschisese imperiul reformelor economice si influentei capitaliste a marilor puteri europeene, intr-o incercare disperata care avea sa esueze in cele din urma de a face sa supravietuiasca sistemul. Imensul teritoriu cuprins intre Asia Mica la nord, Egipt la sud-vest si golful Persic la sud-est devenise un fel de noua frontiera, un Est Salbatic, o tabla uriasa de jocuri unde intre dunele si pietrele deserturilor triburile de beduini se intalneau si se confruntau pentru prima data in istorie cu noul tip de aventurieri colonialisti europeeni, costumati in antreprenori, constructori de drumuri noi si de cai ferate, arheologi, etnografi si mai intotdeauna si spioni pentru marile puteri europeene ai caror cetateni erau. In aceeasi perioada incep sa se stabileasca in Eretz Israel sau Palestina cum numeau arabii zona primele grupuri de evrei sionisti, pionierii primelor valuri de ‘alia’ fugiti de persecutiile Europei, care aveau sa intemeieze in prima jumatate a secolului 20 patria regasita a evreilor.

scrisoare catre doctorul Ruppin

Initiativele sultanului aveau ca scop sa aduca chiar cu jumatate de secol si mai mult intarziere revolutia industriala in imperiul otoman, revolutie in care crearea unei retele feroviare rapide si stabile era un element esential. Greutatile de comunicare, incetineala propagarii firmanelor de guvernare de la Istanbul, capitala situata la extremitatea europeana a imperiului, dificultatea transportarii de trupe in cazul unei revolte si costul ridicat al transportului de marfuri devenisera probleme cronice. In centrul reformelor sultanului se afla deci ambitiosul proiect de a construi o cale ferata intre Istanbul si Bagdad. Inceput in 1886, proiectul a fost subiectul unei licitatii internationale, care a fost castigata in cele din urma de compania germana a lui Heinrich August Meissner. Aceasta gigantica antrepriza a durat peste un sfert de secol, fiind terminata (si nu complet) cu putin inainte de primul razboi mondial. Este posibil ca intarzierile acestui proiect sa fi fost dintre cauzele care au accelerat caderea si destramarea imperiului turcesc, la fel cum se considera ca controlul german asupra acestei cai de acces spre Asia a fost una dintre cauzele economice ale izbucnirii razboiului.

primul pod

Expozitia pe care am vizitat-o acum cateva saptamani la Muzeul Eretz Israel din Tel Aviv era dedicata unei ramificari al acestei linii ferate importante si anume segmentul care era proiectat sa uneasca Damascul cu Mecca. Traseul trecea prin zona Hejaz din peninsula araba si din acest motiv acest proiect a capatat numele de ‘linia ferata Hejaz’. Pentru musulmani el avea insa si o alta semnificatie si anume transportarea credinciosilor care implineau fundamentala porunca islamica a pelerinajului la Mecca (‘hadj’) si de aceea un alt nume cunoscut istoric mai ales in lumea araba este ‘trenul credintei’.  Incercand sa se prezinte drept conducator al credintei sultanul a decis ca spre deosebire de linia principala Istanbul – Bagdad, linia spre Mecca sa fie realizata numai cu finantare musulmana si cu materiale si echipament fabricat in imperiul otoman. Pana la urma doar finantarea a fost intr-adevar din surse strict musulame, cele cinci milioane de lire sterline, suma fabuloasa la acea vreme fiind colectate de la conducatorii Marocului, Persiei, Egiptului si a comunitatilor musulmane din India, suplimentar peste contributia principala – finantele otomane rezultate din impozite. Executia liniei a fost incredintata tot germanilor, ei au adus si majoritatea utilajelor, si inginerul Meissner aflat intr-o pauza fortata din cauza intreruperii lucrarilor la linia spre Bagdad din cauza lipsei de fonduri a fost si seful acestui proiect. Forta de munca a fost furnizata in cea mai mare parte de armata turca, in unele perioade aceasta numarand peste 9000 de soldati.

podul Jensim

Lucrarile au inceput in septembrie 1900, in conditii deosebit de vitrege. Clima este aspra, desertul Arabiei este fierbinte ziua si friguros noaptea, triburile locale de beduini care intelesesera ca aparitia caii ferate va lichida monopolul transporturilor cu caravane au devenit in scurta vreme ostile, iar obstacolele naturale, in special in zona muntilor Moab din Iordania de astazi au pus probleme ingineresti dificile, rezolvate insa cu ingenuitate de inginerii germani care acumulasera experienta in munca pentru drumul spre est, prin construirea de tunele si poduri spectaculoase. In 1904 au fost inaugurate primele tronsoane ale liniei de la Damasc spre sud precum si linia de 161 de kilometri dintre Haifa si Der’a care trece prin Galileea, in nordul Israelului de astazi. O fotografie de epoca din expozitie ii arata pe demnitarii timpului fotografiati in vesminte turcesti in fata monumentului din fata garii Haifa. In 1908 au fost completate tronsoanele pana la Medina, drumul dintre Damasc si Medina in lungime de 1300 de kilometri fiind gata pentru exploatare comerciala. Ultima parte a liniei, cea dintre Medina si Mecca insa nu a mai fost continuata. In august al celui an revolutia tinerilor turci il obliga pe sultan sa accelereze ritmul reformelor democratice, intregul imperiu intra intr-o perioada de turbulenta si banii nu vor mai fi disponibili pentru proiecte de asemenea dimensiuni.

monumentul garii

In timpul razboiului linia ferata a capatat o importanta strategica permitand transportul de trupe si materiale de razboi spre zona peninsulei arabe si a golfului Persic. Lawrence de Arabia si-a cucerit faima prin atacuri repetate si acte de sabotaj asupra liniei Hejaz. Dupa razboi ea a continuat sa fie exploatata comercial devenind o linie internationala care strabatea terirotiul statelor desenate de marile puteri pe tabla de jocuri a Orientului Mijlociu prin tratatele prin intelegerea Sykes-Picot si tratatele care au urmat primului razboi mondial.

mersul trenurilor

In viata comunitatii evreiesti care crestea in numar si putere linia ferata Hejaz a jucat un rol economic si geopolitic important. Existenta liniei de tren a faclitat comunicatiile postale facandu-le mai rapide si mai sigure. Unul dintre exponate reprezinta o scrisoare care Arthur Ruppin, una dintre personalitatile importante ale Tel Avivului si ale comunitatii evreiesti din acele vremuri, francat cu timbru emis de posta otomana. Existenta liniei ferate a dus la dezvoltarea economica a Galileei si si a vailor Izrael si a Iordanului, si infiintarea a numeroase asezari evreiesti care au facut din aceasta una dintre zonele cele mai populate de evrei din Palestina mandatara. Existau in acea perioada servicii de tren regulate pe aceasta linie si ea era mentionata chiar si in ghidurile turistice (vizitatorul israelian poate visa astazi doar la restabilirea unui asemenea serviciu care sa lege Tel Avivul de Beit Shean de exemplu). In perspectiva mai larga linia facea parte din sistemul feroviar comun al zonei pe care englezii planuiau sa il extinda pana la Cairo, planuri care au ramas in arhivele istoriei odata cu infiintarea statului Israel si inchiderea forntierelor intre acesta si vecinii sai arabi. Astazi linia ferata este aproape complet abandonata, transporturile rutiere facilitate de descoperirea petrolului in zona au inlocuit transporturile feroviare. Si totusi trenul a redevenit in ultimii ani cel putin in discutii ca o alternativa viabila, mai rapida si mai putin poluanta a transportului rutier asa incat nu este exclus ca viitoare proiecte sa duca la revenirea sa, sub o forma si alta, iar cand pacea va izbucni candva si in Orientul Mijlociu ideea unei retele feroviare internationale care sa strabata intreaga zona va redeveni si ea poate actuala.

ghidul Vilnay

The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv has a great tradition of exceptional historic exhibitions, based on photography and documents that bring back important and sometimes forgotten episodes from the history of the Land of Israel before and after the foundation of the state. About a year ago I wrote about the Hejaz train line whose segment in Israel (‘the train of the valley’) was announced to be renewed in the coming years. Now in the same pavilion which also hosts the museum of the Postal Services I visited last Saturday a fascinating exhibition dedicated to a forgotten figure who was one of the important personalities in the history of the Palestine at the beginning of the British Mandate period – Sir Ronad Storrs, the first governor of Jerusalem.

The First Governor - entry in the exhibition

The Web page of the exhibition which is open until June 15 can be accessed here. Ha’Aretz published a detailed review of the exhibition with many more interesting details about the man and his times in the Land of Israel.

The First Governor - in the exhibition

Although his name is less known today eclipsed by other personalities like Herbert Samuel the first High Commissioner who ruled the mandatory Palestine in the first period, Ronald Storrs was a well known figure in the area even before entering the Palestinian history. His name is mentioned tens of times in books like The Balfour Declaration by Jonathan Schneer or A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin, fundamental reading for anyone who wants to understand the modern and contemporary history of the Middle East and the roots of the conflicts and complex situation that plague the area and only seem to become more complicated as the time passes.

the future governor and two future kings

Born in 1881 in the family of a priest, Storrs made his studies in a Cambridge college and entered very young the diplomatic service, being assigned in Cairo. He learned Arabic (and later Hebrew) and his language skills among other made of him one of the key persons who built prior and during the First World War the relation between the British Empire and the Arab leaders, who revolted in 1916-1917 against the Turks bringing a significant contribution to the British victories in the war in the area. The price of this alliance was promises made to the Arab rulers by the same time Balfour was making commitments to the Zionist movement and here lie some of the roots of the future conflict between Jews and Arabs. The photo above represents Storrs with emir Abdullah the future king of TransJordan and founder of the Hashemite dynasty and prince George of Kings Speech fame.

the High Commissioner and the Governor have a meal on the roadside

In December 1917 general Allenby liberated Palestine and by the end of the month Storr was named Governor of Jerusalem. He was the first Christian ruler in the Holy Land after seven centuries of Muslim rule and his title is the same the Pontius Pilatus once hold. He hold the highest British position in the land until 1920, when the civil mandate rule replaces the military law, and stood as governor of the Jerusalem city and area and second to High Commissioner Herbert Samuel until 1926.

Samuels, Storrs and the heads of the Christian communities in Jerusalem

The experienced diplomat that Storrs already was by the time he took the positions in Palestine found quickly that the balancing act between the different communities in the Holy Land was by no means an easy one. Even the Christian communities – a minority in a city central to Christianity were divided in issues related to the administration of the holy places.

Three Lectures - No Questions or Discussions

In his memoirs he will write later a paragraph that expresses with characteristib British humor the feelings of frustration that myriads of foreign mediators have felt along the time when faced with the parties in the Jewish vs. Arabs conflict over Palestine: “Being neither Jew (British or foreign ) nor Arab, but English, I am not wholly for either, but for both. Two hours of Arab grievances drive me into the Synagogue, while after an intensive course of Zionist propaganda I am prepared to embrace Islam”

Founding a Settlement (Gezer)

As military governor and then as civil governor he participated in more than one significant event in the development of the Jewish presence in Palestine. Here he is participating at the foundation ceremony of a new Jewish settlement.

Anti-Zionist Demonstration, 1920

The promises made to the two communities – Jewish and Arab – during the war of which Storrs was also part of soon resulted into the surfacing of the broken expectations on both part, and then in the first anti-Jewish demonstrations in 1920 and violent incidents in 1921.

caricature in the Jewish press

Soon the British governor became the preferred target of criticism in the Jewish press. Some of the critics were justified, as Storrs was no supporter of the Zionist plans, and had ideas and proposals of his own that often came in conflict with these. For example by the time he took over the governor position in Jerusalem he was siding the idea of Palestine to become part of a Muslim kingdom based in Egypt – an idea which was taken of the table with the start of the British mandate. Later in his life he supported the White Book and was opposed to the partition plans.

Jerusalem ceramics

The exhibition throws light over the remarkable urban and culture development of the city under Storrs’ governance. By the end of 1917 when Storrs took over the city of Jerusalem was ravaged by war and marked by many decades of neglect and mis-management under the Turkish rule. The governor put means and passion in modernizing the city and encouraging all its communities to express themselves. He even brought new communities in the city like the Armenians, among which the ceramic artists like David Ohanesian, who opened factories and shops and created a tradition of ceramic arts that persists until today. I wrote about this episode (in Romanian) on the blog of my friend Pierre a few years back.  The above tiles were designed to be part of the renovation of the mosque on the Temple Mount but did not make it to the final project.

ceramics street signs

Until today the ceramics street signs in Jerusalem are witnesses of this tradition.

a concert in 1923

A lover of arts Storrs also founded the Pro-Jerusalem Society to promote cultural activities in the city. Above is the poster of a concert he attended in 1923.

Reuven Rubin - Prophet in the Desert

Among the artists he remarked and encourages we can find the Romania-born Reuven Rubin. The lithography above dates from 1923, the year Rubin settled in Palestine. Later in his memoirs Storrs will write the following: “The two outstanding artists of my time were Rubin and Bomberg; Rubin with a whimsically interesting vision, Bomberg seeming to record a powerful cosmic staresmic stare”.

planning the city of Jerusalem

City planing was as important part of the focus of his activity. Our image of Jerusalem today and especially of the Old city area owes a lot to decisions and laws that came under effect during his time – for example the use of native Jerusalem stone in all houses to be built in the city, the decisions not to build East of the Old City in order to conserve the landscape as close as possible to the Biblical appearance, and to build low in the rest of the perimeter of the city to keep the fortress walls visible from any point, and other.

conserving the past

In 1926 Storrs was promoted to the position of Governor of Cyprus, and he later hold a similar position in North Rhodesia. He retired in 1934 and many of his experiences and stories during the Middle East are recorded in his book of memoirs Orientations published in 1937.

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