Peering into the Heart of Israelby Jacqueline Bull March 28, 2018
For the 70th anniversary of Israel’s statehood, Mingei International Museum is hosting its first ever Israel exhibit. SDJJ got a sneak peek with the museum director Rob Sidner before the public opening April 21.
I was whisked to the upstairs of the museum and shown a royal blue Tiffany window that marks the entrance to the chic office space. The office was decorated in cool tones of natural wood, minimalist furniture and lined with photos of art from around the world. I was warmly introduced to Rob Sidner who smiled at me, wearing a smart tweed suit with a blue pocket square.
The exhibition is called “Israel 70 Years of Craft & Design” and features many things under the craft and design umbrella like contemporary textiles, traditional Judaica, and also industrial design objects like clocks and thumb drives.
“I don’t have any first-hand experience with Israel, and I think I’ve been really surprised by the richness and the diversity of the craft and design that is there,” Rob said. Showcasing the diversity of the artists in Israel comes through the broad range of the objects they are displaying; the objects range vastly in age, medium and message.
The first object that we looked at was “Holy Land Views-Kotel-A Wall Hanging.”
“I just love it. It looks like a little bit like WPA in our country, which would have been a little earlier, but it is very much out of arts and crafts and looks like Works Progress Administration during the depression. This has a feeling of that for me. It’s a wonderful piece. It looks like it is appealing to old traditions, medieval Jerusalem. It looks like the Bayeux Tapestry from 1066 in France that was maybe made in England that tells the story of the Battle of Hastings. There are some of the same colors and same feeling, too.”
The second object was “Spring Heel Shoes” that are 3D printed with nylon photopolymer.
“These are wild, really wonderful. Elegant and kooky at the same time. They look quite stylish, they look like they might give a lot like trampoline shoes,” he said.
The next object was a dress that might match those 3D printed shoes. It is from the artist Noa Raviv – pleated silk and white tulle with an laser-cut black polyester adhesive applique.
“I love this piece. Isn’t that stunning? We won’t have the model unfortunately. The orange socks are great too, aren’t they? It is really magnificent bit of couture, pretty complicated. Very terrific design, terrific design, terrific craft, great piece.”
The exhibition came about as a collaboration with the House of Israel. The museum regularly shows individual cultures’ past and present and he added a show on Israel was immediately intriguing to him and the museum.
“And that also thrills us that we, as an art museum, are able to show and reveal … a country and a richness of tradition and vitality that may be unknown. That’s thrilling for this museum to be able to do that; we constantly are trying to show the best of cultures and the best of our creativity as human beings all over the world,” he said.
He explained that they like to dig deep and move past our first impressions or biases of places and focus on the human element of the culture. They have often done shows about countries or cultures that were politically unpopular at the time. The museum even put on a Palestinian show a couple years ago.
“Others might say today why are you doing an Israel show? Because it is an important place of creativity. We want to show it. We could do Iran, we could do a whole thing connected to Islam, to precisely to get beyond of what often becomes way too narrow a point of view or focus. That is the privilege that this museum has always to try to show what is best and most creative,” he said.
To further elaborate he said, “We are able to show something that goes to the very heart of what it is most basic and most enriching about a country and going to its folk art and its craft and its design to the real heart of the creativity of the country.”