Israeli design celebrated at Sotheby's

By Jessica Elgot, March 7, 2011
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A celebration of Israeli design talent has been launched by Sotheby’s, with exhibitions planned in London, Tel Aviv and New York.

Head of the project Sonya Bekkerman said she had been researching Russian origin art in Israel three years ago when she realised how much home-grown talent the country has. She now visits the country around five times a year to find new design pieces, and has taken intensive Hebrew classes.

She said: “A lot of artists we met were designers and the more we looked around we realised there’s extraordinary talent here, it’s fresh, it’s innovative, it’s really exceptional and there isn’t a platform for it. We do sell some Israeli art and Judaica in New York but we decided to give both emerging and established talent a platform at Sotheby’s.”

The first exhibition will take place in Sotheby’s London in May, co-ordinated by celebrated curator Janice Blackburn. Focussing on young talent, it will feature ceramics, glass design, photography, fashion and sculpture by graduates and students of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

Liv Sperber, director of the school's international relations and development, said: "Many of our graduates have exhibited individually abroad but it shows how we are gaining an international reputation, as well as being the best art and design school in Israel."

Some of the graduates are established Israeli designers, like industrial designer Professor Ezri Tarazi, who will exhibit his “Baghdad Table” – an aluminium table top shaped like the cityscape. Other artists will include furniture and lighting designer Tal Gur, ceramicist Zemer Peled and Ori Sonnenschein, who has designed kitchen utensils made out of citrus peel, to be biodegradable and waterproof.

Ms Bekkerman said a political influence was evident in many of the artists’ works, but was not dominant. “Certainly its inevitable the works are linked to their lives, and many are functional objects, which also explore socio-political issues.”

She anticipates there may be problems encountered from Israeli boycotters, but said they hoped to have representation from all parts of Israeli society. “Of course, the artists don’t have to be Jewish Israelis, that’s not our criteria.”

A selling exhibition will be held in Tel Aviv in October at the new wing of the Tel Aviv museum of Art and conclude with a special “Israeli Art Week” exhibition and auction in New York in December.

Ms Bekkerman said: “There's incredible enthusiasm in art world from many clients and collectors of contemporary art and design. People are saying ‘have we been in sleeping? Look at this talent, we need to pay attention.’”

Last updated: 10:32am, March 7 2011