International artists attach their padlocks to the Lovelock Hostage Bridge

Flowers, tears and prayers feature in the designs


Padlocks from the Lovelock Art project at JW3 (Photo: Denise Lester)

Since the Lovelock Hostage Bridge opened at JW3 four months ago, hundreds of people have signed padlocks and attached them to the bridge to symbolise their longing to bring home the hostages still held in Gaza.

Now over 50 international artists have each put their own spin on a padlock in a bid to keep the plight of the captives, who have been held in Gaza for over 240 days, in the public consciousness.

The results are as diverse as they are eye-catching, ranging from a padlock with a bright yellow flower on it, which would usually be found on a headpiece, by milliner Eliane Tilse, to Israeli artist Ilana Fattal’s padlock with Tefillat Hadereh, the Traveller’s Prayer, wrapped around it.

The Lovelock Art project’s instigator is branding expert Marcel Knobil, who told the JC: “These impressive and unprecedented pieces of art are a powerful way of prompting people to think about the horrendous plight of over 100 hostages, who have now been held captive for more than 240 days.”

The display, which was a collaboration with British Friends of the Art Museums of Israel (BFAMI) certainly resonated with visitor Sophia Ellis, who said: “It’s such a fantastic initiative for a fantastic cause. It’s really incredible what people have come up with and there are clearly stories behind each of the designs. 

“One that struck us was an eye with a tear on it [by Karen Lynn],which encapsulates everything that is happening.”

The artistic padlocks are available to the first 54 people (which is how many there are) who donate a minimum of £150 to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. The organisation, which has a UK branch, was set up in the immediate aftermath of October 7 to support the families of those kidnapped or unaccounted for.

Brazilian-born Sandra Shashou’s artwork involves collecting fine bone vintage porcelain teacups and teapots, smashing them with a hammer before repurposing them into artworks. Or, as she puts it: “It’s like a resuscitation of these pieces, which have been broken and then rebuilt into something else, which is perhaps more beautiful than what they were before.”

Her padlock, which is a deep burgundy colour, was created by taking a 1940s teacup, breaking it into pieces and then reassembling the pieces around the padlock and adding a disproportionately large rose before covering it all in resin “to make it stronger and more resilient”.

As she says, her signature style is “very apt to the situation in Israel, where they have been so brutally attacked and devastated. This tragedy is like these pieces, which have been broken. They have been so brave in their fight, keeping their spirits together and praying for their loved ones to come home.

“So, this is a message of hope for families to be brought back together again and for Israel to be a beautiful and happy country again – although it definitely won’t be the same as before.”

American jeweller Kayla Rimmon painted a shiny blue gemstone on her padlock. “I drew a sapphire necklace, and the symbolism is that gemstones are precious, and our hostages are more precious than gemstones, and we really need them home.”

Rimmon said that she felt “a lot of pressure” taking part in the project “because nothing can really represent the pain and the longing we feel to have the hostages home”.

London-based artist Annabel Boltsa decided to focus her design on the Bibas family and painted an intricate still life of two tiny orange pots. “The colours are the most important thing. I used orange to reflect the family,” she said, adding: “The situation with the hostages is really heartrending. It’s been months and months. I hope that people don’t forget about them and that they can be freed now.”

For Israeli artist Fattal, whose dramatic bronze sculptures can be seen at Ben Gurion airport, designing her own padlock touched her deeply.

Wrapping yellow material around the clasp was, she said, “inspired by the yellow badge that we’re all wearing”.

She decided to attach the Tefillat Haderech (the Traveller’s Prayer) to it “because I just want them all back safely. My heart is bleeding from pain for their families.”

She added: “ I’m sure each one of them is praying every night, whatever they pray, but we are all saying the Tefillat Haderech for them so that they can come back healthy and secure in both mind and body.”

In the meantime, Fattal has created a bronze sculpture of a dove with an olive branch in its mouth. “I am waiting for the hostages to be free, so I can donate it somewhere meaningful.”

Speaking at the event was Asi Sharabi, the second cousin of hostage Alon Ohel, who was abducted from the Nova festival and has turned 23 while in captivity.

In April, as in other cities around the world, JW3 installed a yellow piano in honour of Alon, who is a gifted pianist.

Sharabi said: “A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this incredible installation [of Lovelock Art]. This really resonates with what Alon’s family has been trying to say since October 7, which is the hope that art - and, in their case, music – can bring about change.”

“We need a ceasefire now, and we need to bring them home now. Nothing else matters.”

Sharabi, who lives in London, added: “We tend to forget that there is suffering on both sides – blood is blood, grieving is grieving, and it’s only when we really understand this that we can apply the right pressure and say: ‘Bring them home now, make a deal now, make a ceasefire now and make peace now.’”

The Lovelock Art project at JW3 is open to the public until June 20 from 10am to 10pm (except Fridays and Saturdays) 

To view the padlocks online and to donate to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, click here

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