Bezalel 100 Year Celebrations

Bezalel 100 Year Celebrations at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Government called the official opening of Bezalel’s centennial celebration on January 4, 2006, “a national event”.  The opening ceremony held at The Israel Museum was attended by several dignitaries including H.E. President of the State of Israel, Moshe Katsav and Mrs. Gila Katsav, Vice Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and Mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Uri Lupolianski.

The ceremony opened the main centenary exhibition, Boris Schatz: The Father of Israeli Art, a retrospective exhibition celebrating the life work of Boris Schatz (1867-1932), founder of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem in 1906 and of the National Bezalel Museum, forerunner to the Israel Museum. Over seventy paintings, sculptures, and historical documents - including works that had never been exhibited publicly - and a handwritten draft of the Balfour Declaration,  traced Schatz’s achievements from the beginning of his career in Europe through his role in shaping the first chapter of modern Israeli art history.

“Boris Schatz was a visionary whose goal was to establish, in Jerusalem, a cultural center for the birth of a new Hebraic art... Established in 1906, the Bezalel Academy gathered students from near and far, from the budding Zionist settlements and from the Jewish Diaspora, and continues to this day to promote Schatz’s legacy and beliefs,” said Yigal Zalmona, the Israel Museum’s Chief Curator and curator of the exhibition.

Professor Arnon Zuckerman, President of Bezalel, also looking forward to Bezalel’s continued achievements was quoted in The Jerusalem Post on 4.01.06:
 “Alongside preserving the tradition of Bezalel we will lead the Academy into the twenty first century equipped to deal with new challenges, and ready to guide the world of art and design, both in our local sphere and across the globe.”

“Solos: New Design From Israel”
at Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

The Bezalel Academy’s centennial celebrations were also marked at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum on January 25, 2006, with a cocktail reception and the opening of Solos: New Design from Israel, the first museum exhibition of contemporary Israeli design in the United States. 

The exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Solos: New Design from Israel, focused on works by graduates of Bezalel’s Department of Industrial Design. It featured more than two-dozen prototypes, experimental objects and production pieces conceived and created by designers who live and work in Israel.  The exhibition was on view January 27 through April 23, 2006, in Cooper-Hewitt’s new ground-floor gallery.  The exhibition was organized by guest curator Ezri Tarazi, head of the industrial design graduate program at Bezalel, and Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt.  

The objects presented in the exhibition, ranged from bookshelves to chairs to lighting fixtures, eliciting a discourse on the sculptural, material, functional and conceptual possibilities of useful things. They also provided insight into the relationship between designer and manufacturer. Though Israel supports high-tech industry, there are few businesses in the region that manufacture household goods and furniture. The designers featured in Solos: New Design from Israel addressed this constraint by constructing domestic objects from locally sourced, everyday materials, such as designer Tal Gur’s chair made of plastic drinking straws that had been fused together with heat.

Though some of the exhibition objects are in mass production, most were one-of or small batch pieces created to foster reflection on the design process. The contrast between materials was often highlighted, instead of hidden, and elements were juxtaposed in a frank, even abrupt manner. This material duality was revealed in objects such as stools designed by Raviv Lifshitz that consist of inflated beach balls enclosed within wire structures. Themes of rupture and discontinuity are also present in many of the designs, including a set of ceramic mugs by Yuval Tal whose handles have been broken off and then re-attached through blatantly mechanical means. Many of the objects in the exhibition displayed a rough, unfinished character that provoked conceptual questions about how everyday objects are made and used. An installation by Tarazi consisted of furniture that unfolds out of its own shipping crates, commenting on the itinerant nature of museum exhibitions as well as life in a global society.

A heartfelt thanks go to the sponsors of the exhibition -- Connie and Harvey M. Krueger, Myrna and Isaac Kaye and Barbara and Morton Mandel, and to Dr. Marcella Brenner and The Polonsky Foundation for assisting with the publication of the catalogue.

Bezalel at the President of Israel’s Residence

On May 15 2006, the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Moshe Katsav, and Mrs. Gila Katsav, hosted Bezalel at their Jerusalem Residence, arranging a festive reception which was attended by flocks of artists and friends of Bezalel.

The President along with the Prime Minister, Mr. Ehud Olmert, congratulated the Academy on the occasion of its centennial. Also welcoming the assembly were the Minister of Education, Ms. Yuli Tamir, Chairman of our Board of Governors, Mr. Aharon Dovrat, and the President of the Academy during the period 1979-1991, Prof. Ran Shehori.

The event, which was also attended by the Minister of Science, Technology, Culture and Sport, Mr. Ophir Pines-Paz, served additionally as a forum for conferring the title of Honorary Fellow of Bezalel (Yakir Bezalel) to six guests, among them donors who have been instrumental in promoting art in Israel and overseas, as well as some of the most talented and outstanding artists in Israel who have been associated with Bezalel:

  • Dr. Marcella Brenner; lecturer at George Washington University, a founder of the Friends of Bezalel Association in New York.
  • Mr. Morton Mandel; founder of the Mandel Foundation in Israel & the Mandel Institute of Leadership, and friend of Bezalel.
  • Ms. Rivka Saker; Director of Sotheby's Israel & Senior Manager of Sotheby's Europe, an active donor to cultural institutions.
  • Prof. Micha Olman; artist, winner of numerous prestigious prizes, and a greatly admired teacher of art at Bezalel during the period 1970-1978.
  • Mr. Moshe Gershoni; painter, teacher at Bezalel during the period 1972-1977, and one of the standard bearers of the new esprit at Bezalel.
  • Prof. Arthur Goldreich; architect and Chairman of the Arthur Goldreich Foundation for the Promotion of Art, Design and Architecture at Bezalel.

The Chairman of Mifal Hapayis/ the National Lottery, Mr. Shimon Katznelson, launched the book Bezalel 100, published by the Payis Board for Culture and Art. This fascinating reference book comprises three volumes containing the history of Bezalel, which is in fact the history of visual art in Israel. The enterprise was backed by extensive activity, involving the collection, cataloguing and digital storage of rare materials, some of which were in danger of disappearance. Visual production was entrusted to Mr. David Tartakover, while Dr. Gideon Efrat was responsible for the written content.

A second edition of the book in Hebrew is to be published in mid-September and its purchase will be possible through Bezalel. The possibility of publishing the book in English is currently being investigated.

Concomitantly, the President's residence also hosted the Continuity and Change Exhibition – 100 Years of Judaica at Bezalel. The exhibition, under the curatorship of the Head of the Ceramics and Glass Department, Muli Ben Sasson, reflects the development of art tradition at Bezalel over the 100-year period. The exhibition – which has been roving for eight years, having been shown in 14 locations throughout the world – allows a restatement of the design of religious artifacts based on Jewish culture and religion.

The exhibition was held in the Hall of the President's residence over a three-week period during the celebrations of Israel's 58th Independence Day, and was visited by foreign ambassadors, soldiers noted for outstanding service, and military personnel, amongst other dignitaries.

Reunion of Bezalel Alumni, 1906-2006

"I must go home to take in all that has happened to me this evening", whispered the woman sitting next to me at the amphitheatre on Mt. Scopus, to the accompaniment of rock music reverberating in the background.

"I am so overwhelmed," beamed one of the more well-known graduates, who is also a lecturer at the academy. "Try to understand, I met fellow students here today, lecturers who taught me, and my own students. It's much more than I can absorb in one evening."

On June 29, 2006, the Bezalel Academy held its first ever Alumni event. Over three thousand Bezalel graduates, spanning the Academy’s 100 year history gathered at the entrance plaza to the Mount Scopus amphitheatre.

At 7:00 p.m. people started to filter in slowly and look for familiar faces. Each person approached the zone where the name of his department was displayed; some gravitated to Photography, others to Fine Art, some to Visual Communications and others to Ceramic Design or Jewelry (previously known as the Metal Department).

Slowly the place began to hum with smiling faces, cries of joy, and surprised looks. Some people took to sipping the wine being served, hoping that would help them to cope with the excitement that was gripping them. Famished guests gulped down humus and pita, or hot dogs; informal foods which tasted delicious to the palate.

There were people of all ages, from young graduates in their twenties, products of the 21st century, who moved around with a feeling of pride in their achievements; through graduates of the 1970s and 1980s, who have already come a long way in their careers and have become well-known in their respective fields; to the over-80s, who turned out to be a media attraction - bubbling and interesting and readily recounting stories from the period of their studies. One of them even revealed his love at the time for a woman of his age sitting next to him, who exclaimed: "So why didn’t you tell me then?"

At 9:00 p.m., the program was supposed to begin and the loudspeakers repeatedly requested that the attendees proceed in the direction of the amphitheatre. No one adhered - nothing was more important during those moments than the very deep personal experience of renewing memories from the past, removing the dust of nostalgia and reliving the student days at Bezalel.

Nearly an hour passed by the time the crowd sat down and the show began. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Uri Lupoliansky, congratulated the institution, expressing his esteem for its professionalism and its impressive achievements. He was followed by the person behind the reunion initiative, the President of Bezalel, Prof. Arnon Zuckerman, who congratulated the participants and expressed his pleasure at the response he had received and the wonderful atmosphere that was engulfing everyone.

The show was chaired with great skill by director Amit Lior, who is also a lecturer at Bezalel. He deftly wove a thread connecting significant milestones in the history of Bezalel, using humorous stories and a film screened in the background. Above all he succeeded in conveying the special meaning of the expression "being from Bezalel". In between the narrative segments, he interposed songs sung and played by composer and musician Avi Balali and the Revenge of the Tractor Band, supplemented by the strains of a violin. The audience connected to the Bezalel experience through the stories and songs and were able to relive their youthful years. The entire show was held in the open air against the impressive backdrop of the Judean mountains and the Dead Sea. It ended symbolically with a special rendition by Balali of the song "Me'al Pisgat Har Hazofim / Above the Heights of Mount Scopus," making the event a truly unforgettable experience.

The program ended, but the graduates refused to disperse and continued to chat excitedly into the small hours of the morning. They finally went home armed with a sketch book and a Bezalel pin as mementos of the extraordinary event they had witnessed and been a part of.

75,000 visitors attend the Bezalel Graduate Exhibition at Airport Terminal

Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion International Airport, the former airport terminal, is for all Israelis the ultimate cocoon experience. This enormous two-storied abandoned space evokes far horizons that spell an escape from reality. On the occasion of Bezalel's centennial, the academy held its End of Year Exhibition at Terminal 1, from July 18 to August 8, 2006. Some 10,000 people visited the exhibition on the opening day which began with a ceremony graced by speeches from the President of the Academy, Prof. Arnon Zuckerman, and the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. Aharon Dovrat.

The exhibition of more than 1,500 intriguing and moving original art works created by talented students from 10 different departments at the end of their four or five year program of study at Bezalel covered an area of more than 20,000 sq.m. Paintings, sculptures, design items, ceramics and glass vessels, animated films, video films, experimental cinema, posters, jewelry, clothing, architectural models, photographs and installations – all these existing in harmonious juxtaposition with the décor of the old terminal: signboards, benches, ticketing counters, baggage carousels, passport control windows and duty free shops.

The concept was to facilitate a direct encounter between the general public and the fascinating professional works produced by the Bezalel students in the fields of art, design and architecture. The central location of Terminal 1 made art a commodity that was sought by all, while it allowed convenient access to visitors from across Israel, including residents from the north during the difficult weeks of war.

About 1,800 students studied for their bachelor's and master's degree this year, and 2005/6 saw 358 graduates from the 10 departments of the academy completing their degrees. The achievements of the students, as evidenced in their final projects, were the product of in-depth research, advanced technology, experimentation with new materials, and above all an infectious curiosity that aroused in them and their teachers an urge to break down barriers.

The end-of-year exhibition was composed of a wide range of individual projects dealing with an entire spectrum of fields, from personal subjects, through existential issues touching on the Israeli reality, to innovative and creative concepts in the field of product development alongside an exploration of roots and tradition.
Visitors took an escalator up through the old "Departures" entrance to the obsolete passport control. Here, the 28 graduates of the Department of Jewelry and Fashion, headed by Einat Lieder installed faceless fabric mannequins wearing hats and headgear inside the glass cubes. It was a creepy pleasure to be confronted by these lifeless government officials, and a liberating feeling to walk right past them into the main terminal area.
In the middle of the floor, viewers found a diverse selection of fashion design, which included wearable yet pleasantly strange garments inspired by the cultural roots of the students’ families, alongside clothing for the homeless, or for football fans inspired by the World Cup Tournament. Art was also installed inside the airport's abandoned shops. In particular, viewers enjoyed peering into H. Stern's glass jewelry cases, where decidedly avant-garde, wearable art devoid of diamonds was beautifully displayed.

Sixty graduates of the Department of Architecture, headed by Prof. Zvi Efrat, exhibited the project The Culture of Leisure in the Negev against the backdrop of enormous windows overlooking aircraft on the tarmac. The project featured models floating in pools of water, representing an interesting alternative to leisure activities in the Negev including jeep trails and an ashram site for spiritual activity.

The Department of Ceramics and Glass Design, headed by Muli Ben Sasson, focused on close observation and realisation of traditional definitions, extending the boundaries of creation with materials based on traditional knowledge and the use of new technologies. Utilizing the huge expanse of the passenger hall, the 22 department graduates displayed a massive innovative collection of ceramics vessels in captivating colour, including, among other things, a gigantic modular partition made entirely of ceramics and doubling as a storage facility.

The Department of Industrial Design, under the directorship of Ami Drach, presented the department through the courses and subjects taught, attempting to mirror the inspirational spirit behind its activities, manifested principally in a  sensitivity to environmental and human needs. Thirty-three graduates of the department presented projects throughout the terminal as well as in the former VIP lounge which included: do-it-yourself furniture, including design and assembly inspired by the legendary Burda fashion magazine; a Tel Aviv street clock built into sewage manhole covers on the city's pavements; floating products for swimming with babies; milk packaging that changes daily with the help of special technology; figures of disabled dolls, aimed at facilitating contact with the strange and the different; and a private urban vehicle to solve the problem of mobility in large cities.

The graduates of the Department of Photography and New Media, headed by Yossi Breger – who is ending his tenure this year and will be succeeded by the photographer Mickey Kartzman – equipped themselves with tools for viewing, producing and evaluating photographic art works. The exhibition of graduates this year showed works that seek to investigate the identity of the Israeli arena and the people that make it up, through conscious and reflexive observation of the surrounding scene. This year 35 students completed their studies in the department. Among the more prominent works were an impressive series of body shots expressing pain, alongside studies in aesthetics, photographs of the environment in which we live, and self-portraits.

The Animation Unit, headed by Prof. Roni Oren, trains its graduates to be uniquely Israeli creators and professionals in the field of animation.  It develops individuals who can make an artistic statement, who are independent and original, and who can think critically about and through the medium of animation and cinema. Some 40 graduates completed their studies this year, and among their works were classical animated films, as well as animation with plasticine and sand, comprising a discourse on the nuances and emotions of daily life.

The Department of Visual Communication, under the direction of Hanoch Marmari, presented the works of 95 graduates. Among the more prominent works were social and political projects, exemplified by one that examined the identity of the Druze student, postage stamps designed to convey a social message, a mosaic of Israeli situations and icons, and a re-division of Israeli society into the 12 Tribes from a personal perspective.

The Department of Fine Art, headed by Prof. Ido Bar-El completed the year with 45 graduates. Their works included sculptures, huge drawings alongside small sketches, and exquisite paintings including a series of lifelike paintings of dishes in a sink. At the entrance stood a gigantic multicoloured sculpture made of polystyrene foam, The Snake's Tooth, phallic in shape and dripping paint.

Several student works from the End of Year Exhibition will be on auction at the New York Friends Annual Gala in 2007.
As part of the exhibition, a Fashion Show was staged on July 25 by the graduates of Bezalel's Department of Jewelry and Fashion, presenting projects from the final year. Seven graduates showed six to seven ensembles each. The clothes were modelled on the runway in an interesting way and it was clearly evident that a great deal of thought had been invested in the enthralling Show which attracted 4,000 spectators.

In the course of the exhibition different events were held every evening as part of the series Terminal at Twilight, initiated by the Unit for History and Theory headed by Dr. Dana Arieli-Horowitz, in cooperation with other Bezalel departments. The pick of the crop in the way of thinkers and artists were invited to participate in lectures and screenings in the fields of art and culture in a hall specially erected for the purpose in the check-in area.

The total number of visitors to the exhibition at the terminal, was 75, 312 over a period of three weeks. We would like to extend special thanks The Mandel Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, for their generous contribution to the Exhibition. The extraordinary event and the brilliant decision regarding its location afforded the graduates of the centennial class unprecedented promotion and exposure, while at the same time attracting an audience that might not normally have patronized end-of-year exhibitions. The focused look at the exhibition's works, displayed over the area of a single floor and existing in perfect harmony with each other, allowed a rare peek into the world of the coming generation of designers and artists.

Goods to Declare MFA International

Marking five years since its establishment in Tel Aviv, the Bezalel MFA program has managed to establish its mark in Tel Aviv and Israel at large, as well as acquiring an international reputation. Our students were invited to participate in the Istanbul 2005 Biennale, annual seminars with Glasgow School of Art, an international seminar in Helsinki, and seminars with Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts de Paris and Los Angeles CalArts.

In celebration of Bezalel’s Centenary the Bezalel MFA program initiated and put together an exhibition of MFA graduates worldwide to create a platform that would  generate an international dialogue, and possibly follow nascent ideas amongst artists of the same generation.

We approached the  world's leading MFA programs and asked them to select works from their graduate exhibitions. From this pool of talent,  Bezalel students and staff chose the participating works representing 51 artists from 15 different schools around the globe. The participating colleges were:

Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem
CalArts, Los Angeles
Columbia University School of the Arts, New York
Ecole Nationale de Beaux Arts de Lyon
Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beauz Arts, Paris
Goldsmiths College, London
Malmo Art Academy, Sweden
Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design, Stockholm
School of the Arts Institute of Chicago
Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste – Stadelschule, Frankfurt am Main
The Glasgow School of Art, UK
The Royal University College of Fine Arts, Stockholm
The Slade School of Fine Art, London
Yildiz Technical University of Art and Design Faculty, Istanbul

The exhibition entitled Goods to Declare MFA International was displayed in the Baggage Claim area of Terminal 1, among the conveyors and the remnants of once active facilities. The location’s unique architecture, a Third World atmosphere, various signs of events that took place during the years of its activity, the remains of a seemingly naïve, didactic Zionist pathos – all made up the still lingering identity of Terminal 1. As opposed to Terminal 3, this site is not built in the super-modernist manner marking today's global airports; it's not a non-place, but the opposite: a place filled with memories and the trails of local culture and history; as if suspended – no longer active, on its way towards turning into something else.

The Terminal, as a place, was not the subject matter of the exhibition, and only a few works were site-specific. But the place – a gateway, a meeting place, a flow of ideas from different places; arrivals and departures – served as a suitable metaphor for the stage these artists are at: a time of graduation, a parting from their academic context, and an arrival into what is known as the “art scene”.

On 19.07.06 the MFA program held an International Round-Table Symposium at the Airport, as part of the Terminal at Twilight Lecture Series organized by the History and Theory Unit over the course of the Exhibition. The panel discussion was chaired by Prof. Ronald Jones from Konstfack University of Art, Craft and Design, Stockholm, and included Prof. Sam Ainsley from The Glasgow School of Art;  Phyllida Barlow from The Slade School of Fine Art, London;     Prof. Zvi Goldstein from the  Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design;  Dr. Andrew Renton from Goldsmiths College, University of London;  Sarit Shapira, Curator, Tel Aviv;  Irit Sommer, Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv;  Micha Ullman, Artist, Tel Aviv;  Prof. Johan Widen from The Royal University College of Fine Arts, Stockholm.

The MFA International Exhibition received much publicity in the national press. One of the guests, Dr. Andrew Renton, British Curator and Head of Curator Studies at Goldsmiths College London, was interviewed for the Herald Tribune (31.07.06) where he was quoted: “It seems that the creation of a real international dialogue is the biggest success of Bezalel’s MFA program…The blurring of boundaries between student and artist has almost become the trademark of the program with students exhibiting in museums and galleries whilst still involved in their studies… The schools and galleries here are what promote a substantial world of art. Today Bezalel is the place where the dialogue is happening, where the groups of artists are crystallizing. Today Israeli art is not treated as something that surfaces once at the Biennale and once at Documenta. It is constantly present, important and good. The Israeli galleries sell work all over the world by artists who studied at the Bezalel MFA program. It is a wonderful process that nourishes itself and is constantly growing.” 

All the guests from abroad invited to the 100th anniversary celebrations of Bezalel, received a pin from the Foreign Ministry with an Israeli flag on one side and on the other a gold flag with the words “Israel Loves You”.