Nude photoshoot planned for Tel Aviv

Jewish artist Spencer Tunick has submitted a request to shoot a mass nude portrait in Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea, to the anger of some Knesset members

By Jessica Elgot, March 12, 2010
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The controversial Jewish artist Spencer Tunick, whose photographs feature thousands of naked volunteers, hopes to shoot a work in Israel.

The proposal has sparked both excitement and anger among politicians and religious groups.

Mr Tunick has submitted two requests, one to shoot in the Tel Aviv Port and one on the Dead Sea beach.

A spokesman for the Tel Aviv municipality said they were thrilled to be considered by Mr Tunick. He said: "This is a wonderful way of telling the world about Tel Aviv and its modern and vibrant nature."

But Dead Sea officials were less enamoured with the idea of a visit by Mr Tunick Dov Litvinoff, head of the Tamar Regional Council said: "I am a very liberal and open person but as a public official I don’t think that the council which I head should invest in a project so controversial.

"After all, the Dead Sea belongs to everyone. A nude display of thousands of nudists does not promote the Dead Sea, it promotes the whim of someone who calls himself an artist."

He added that Mr Tunick was at liberty to use a public beach in the area.

"I won't set up a barrier on Highway 90 to block his arrival or that of all those nudists. If they want they can come to one of the Dead Sea's open beaches."

Israeli Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov, welcomed the artist. He said: "One has to bear in mind this is an artistic display. I welcome the initiative for its great potential in improving Israel's image as an enlightened, safe, modern and liberal country.

“In allowing this, Israel will be joining a long line of respectable countries around the world where Tunick has shot in the past."

"We believe that a solution will be found which will allow the implementation of the project while considering all sectors of society."

Many Israelis have already voiced support for Mr Tunick, and a Facebook group “Spencer Tunick – Israel” encouraging the artist to come to Israel has nearly 400 members.

But Knesset members have voiced their disgust at the prospect of a mass nude photoshoot in the Jewish state.

Shas MK Nissim Zeev said that Mr Tunick’s artworks "take human beings and train them to be animals.”

He added: “I am not surprised that some foreigner has come here and brought up such a deceitful idea.

"I understand that he has an artistic task, but it's interesting how any form of prostitution has become art. That's the way it is lately.

“What kind of Jewish state are we talking about here? What kind of Jewish culture? What values? What, have we gone crazy? This is artistic bestialising."

MK Uri Orbach also voiced his disapproval. He said: "I understand that one of the shoots is supposed to take place in the Dead Sea. This is the lowest place on earth, and after this it may sink even lower.”

But Mr Tunick was later defended by MK Ilan Gilon of New Movement-Meretz, who said of Mr Zeev "It must be his pornographic mind that makes him think nudity is a bad thing."

He added that three Meretz MKs had considered posing for Mr Tunick themselves, but had decided against the idea because they “didn’t want to drive tourists away.”

    Last updated: 10:56am, March 12 2010