Jerusalem’s Hill of Tranquility has, indeed, proved to be a place of respite for visitors, but especially locals. The site of the Israel Museum, the hill was a hub of activity during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Gaza last summer. ‘Tourism dropped but our attendance did not dip as much as one would expect because local attendance went up,’ says Mira Lapidot, the museum’s chief curator. ‘People felt safe at the museum.’
The museum celebrates 50 years of bringing the reflective calm that visual art can impressively deliver with the unveiling of 6 Artists/6 Projects, which opens 10 February, and is the first of a year-long program of some dozen anniversary shows. ‘Our main narrative is the notion of being local, international and universal all at the same time,’ says James Snyder, director of the museum since 1997, succeeding Teddy Kollek who as Jerusalem’s mayor founded the museum in 1965. ‘Coming from a place like Jerusalem, it’s extremely important that be your trademark.’
Gilad Ratman, Five bands from Romania, 2011-2015.
Two channel HD video installation and a sound room, 14 mins.
Originally designed by modernist architect Alfred Mansfeld, who created a system of modular buildings to echo a Mediterranean hilltop village that could grow over time, the museum completed a $100 million renewal of its 20-acre campus five years ago. James Carpenter preserved ‘the envelope but improved the quality of visiting the museum,’ says Snyder of the New York-based designer’s three entry pavilions and his streamlined circulation route through the grounds and galleries. Snyder reported that attendance has doubled since 2010 to almost one million visitors, a third of which are international.
Lapidot is overseeing the anniversary year’s exhibitions that draw largely on the museum’s 500,000-object encyclopedic collections of visual art and archaeology dating from one and a half million years ago to the present. The inaugural show spotlights half a dozen Israeli artists — Uri Gershuni, Roi Kuper, Dana Levy, Tamir Lichtenberg, Ido Michaeli, Gilad Ratman — working in photography, video, and multimedia installation. Kuper, for instance, who grew up on a kibbutz near Gaza, offers part of a year-long series of shooting panoramic photographs of Gaza from the nearest points he could access on the border in every direction. ‘His project was put to a halt when the war operation happened,’ says Lapidot, noting that he resumed in August. ‘Gaza Dream began as a very formalist notion and then suddenly the project took on a different kind of edge.’
Ido Michaeli, Israeli, born 1980. Bank Hapoalim Carpet, 2013.
Handwoven wool and silk, 250 x 320 cm.; Here & Now Contemporary Israeli Art Acquisitions Committee.
Roi Kuper, Be'eri, 2014.
Inkjet print. Collection of the artist
6 Artists/6 Projects will overlap with 1965 Today, opening on 31 March. It will provide a snapshot of what Israel looked like at the time of the museum’s founding, including household design, fashion, electronics, news footage, as well as artworks by Israeli artists active in the 1960s against a backdrop referencing international movements in the art world.
Uri Gershuni, The Blue Hour, 2014.
Collection of the artist.
A Brief History of Humankind, opening May 1, traces the trajectory of mankind through 12 objects in the museum’s collection — from the first evidence of communal fire nearly 800,000 years ago to Albert Einstein’s original manuscript, Special Theory of Relativity. Each artifact will have a supporting cast of contemporary works connecting past and present by artists including Mark Dion, Janet Cardiff, and Yinka Shonibare. ‘The show will use the smallest number of cultural objects to tell the most sweeping story of human civilization and have it resonate with works in contemporary art,’ says Snyder. ‘There aren’t many museums that can do that.’