Israel’s art scene – something for everyone

 Mural at Jaffa Port, Israel

Sometimes what happens around art is more interesting than the art itself. Take for instance the event I recently attended in Tel Aviv, Israel at a gallery on Allenby Street, one of Tel Aviv’s busiest and grungiest commercial streets. The word-of-mouth invite mentioned some sort of performance marathon. After the cab dropped me off, I practically had to risk my life avoiding speeding buses and manic taxi drivers to get to the gallery on the other side. The storefront of the art space was in dire need of funds and/or aesthetic rehabilitation. Several rows of folding metal chairs had been set up on the grimy sidewalk in front of the gallery’s vitrine where a video was playing back the street scene superimposed with a rapidly blinking eye.  A set of drums squatted mutely on the pavement.

The seated guests represented a wonderfully bizarre cross section of Israeli society – old babushkas with headscarves waiting for the free booze sat beside artsy women sporting mannishly cropped hair and severe glasses. Ponytail-coiffed Israeli men chain-smoked next to hip-looking mothers watching their children chasing a smattering of the notoriously independent breed of Israeli dog.

The proceedings began with the gallery’s owner reflecting on the past year, though his efforts were challenged by barking dogs and accelerating buses. To mark the occasion of their first anniversary, shots of an unidentified strain of alcohol were passed around, causing a frenzy of serious elbow jostling.

Then the interior lights were dimmed and the night’s first performer stepped into the darkened storefront window dressed in a black suit punctuated by red LED lights. Taking his cue from the beating drums the ‘artist’ embarked on what looked like a series of slow-mo downward dogs and alternating ninja moves. After about ten minutes I took my leave, more out of pity than sheer boredom. The whole scene played like a Woody Allen movie in which Woody finds himself in a ludicrous social situation trying to think of something polite to say, and failing miserably. I must admit I expected more from the Israeli alternative art scene.

Gallery performance

Israel is bursting with creative energy and I met the most amazing artists in my research for my next feature article on Israel for The Great Nude. So please stay tuned for the winter edition which will feature my article The Holy Land laid bare. In the meantime you can browse my article on what’s going on with the nude in the Paris art scene.

Art poster, Jaffa port Israel