Art for art's sake

By Ann Goldberg, November 11, 2011

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art houses the largest collection of Israeli art in the world. However, although it is mainly an institute of contemporary and modern art, it also has a very impressive collection of European art from the past 300 years, including Italian, Dutch and Flemish works.

The museum was established in 1931 by Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv's first mayor and its first acquisition was a gift from Marc Chagall of his Jew with the Torah.

The site of the museum was the mayor's own home at 16 Rothschild Boulevard and this later became the place where David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State in May 1948. This building is no longer used by the museum.

Later, The Helena Rubenstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art was established not far away.

The main building of the museum moved to Shaul Hamelech Street, in what has become the artistic hub of Tel Aviv, near the New Israeli Opera and the Cameri Theatre.

In the field of international painting and sculpture, the museums' collection displays pioneers of modernism and diverse contemporary trends in Europe and America, including works by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso, Chagall and Míro.

It also holds a large collection of photographs of the Middle East and 25,000 prints and drawings of 19th century and modern masters.

As well as its frequently changing temporary exhibitions there are educational programs and special workshops for children.

An innovative self-guided multimedia tour is offered in two versions, one for adults and one for children. Through touch-screens there are interactive activities to encourage art appreciation and education about the various works in the museum.

September 2011 was designated the beginning of The Year of Art in Tel Aviv. Exhibitions, conferences, community projects, art festivals and educational initiatives have been scheduled, but the pivotal event is undoubtedly the November 2 opening of the new landmark to the museum of art's complex, The Herta and Paul Amir Building.

This structure, with its striking design, is a free-standing concrete and glass building of complex geometry and light filled space.

From the outside, the museum is sleek and angular, but inside it is built around a spiralling, top-lit 87ft-high atrium with twisting surfaces, curving up and down throughout the building.

This $55 million (£35 million) structure, designed by architect Preston Scott Cohen, is comprised of five levels that twist from floor to floor and contain large rectangular galleries.

During the opening period, there will be many special exhibitions, but the main one will be Shevirat Ha'kelim - The Breaking of the Vessels, which has been organised by Mordechai Omer in collaboration with Anselm Kiefer, focusing on themes of Jewish history and mysticism.

The 7,000 sq ft auditorium will also present film screenings, musical performances, readings and lectures, which will continue to make this museum the cultural centrepiece for Tel Aviv's artistic and cultural community.

Last updated: 4:09pm, November 11 2011