Israel’s Museum On The Seam holds final exhibition “Thou Shalt Not” before closing its doors due to German von Holtzbrinck family withdrawing their support of the institution.
Art Radar takes a look at the circumstances surrounding the final exhibition “Thou Shalt Not” at West Jerusalem’s Museum On The Seam.
Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam, a contemporary art centre promoting coexistence situated on the boundary between the city’s east and west, is due to close its doors indefinitely due to a lack of funding. The Museum on the Seam opened in its current form in 1999, when Raphie Etgar took over the institution, which had previously been the Turjeman Post Museum – a 1983 initiative led by the then Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek and supporter Georg von Holtzbrinck of Germany.
The transformation of the Turjeman Post Museum into The Museum On The Seam was made possible by continued support from the German von Holtzbrinck family. Now, nearly twenty years after its opening, the museum will close its doors due to the von Holtzbrinck family’s decision to withdraw funding of the institution. Museum Director Raphie Etgar has reportedly struggled to find new donors.
The Museum gets its name from its physical location – on the seam or borderline between largely Arab East Jerusalem and largely Jewish West Jerusalem, two halves of an “eternally undivided” city, as well as the particular history of the museum’s building. Between 1948 and 1967 the building served as an IDF post on the line dividing the Jordanian and Israeli-controlled parts of Jerusalem, next to the gate connecting the two. The structure’s façade preserves the scars of battle.
Throughout the 2000s the museum produced a number of exhibitions designed to explore a number of themes at the centre of the ongoing conflict and occupation of Palestine. The 2006 exhibition “Equal and Less”, which included work by William Kentridge, Martha Rosler, Tehching Hsieh, Harun Farocki and Chen Chieh-jen, among many others, explored global histories of slavery and intended to, as stated in the curatorial text, “expose the distressed existence of man in a world of globalization and migration”.
Other exhibitions such as the 2008 “Bare Life” and 2010’s “The Right to Protest” sought to promote “tolerance and coexistence” in the zone. Despite the museum’s intentions, the institution has also reportedly been criticised locally and internationally for failing to deal adequately with the politics of occupation across the region.
Throughout 2017 the exhibition “Thou Shalt Not”, which will also be the institution’s last show, is on display. Featuring works of both religious and secular Jewish artists, the exhibition aims to spark new conversations on religion, art and life in Israel. Speaking to Art Radar, Museum Director Raphie Etgar described the exhibition:
The works presented in “Thou Shalt Not” enable a peek into the secular artistic happening, coping with Jewish sources and concepts, and next to it works of religious artists. It is truly a striking example of contemporary Jewish art made by leading Israeli artists from all parts of the religious to non-religious spectrum.
Established Israeli artists such as Micha Ullman, Yair Garbuz and Moshe Gershuni exhibit works beside more up and coming names in the region’s religious art. A work by Israeli artist Ken Goldman departs from the Hebrew saying “to hit on a sin”, which means to be repentant. The motorised sculpture performs the act of confession in a repetitive motion, which suggests the action of thumping fists on the heart, standing and bowing forward.
The exhibition also includes work made by ultra-Orthodox artists who decided to remain anonymous due to the stigmas surrounding collaboration with “secular” institutions. In a video installation entitled Kiss (from the “reading/ writing series”) (2012), the anonymous artist reflects on feelings from her childhood, departing from memories of studying to read and write in the “Cheder”. The video depicts the artist licking honey from the Hebrew Alphabet – an ancient custom of the Charedi world to encourage toddlers to love the letters as they might love the taste of honey.
Other works reflect directly on the relation between contemporary art practice and religion, theology and faith. In Moshe Gershuni’s work Hail Cyclament (1984) the artist explores the historic battle ground between art and theology. According to art critic David Sperber, writing on Gershuni’s work for a 2010 retrospective exhibition of Gershun’s work at the Tel Aviv Art Museum,
theology and art aren’t different entities, but rather two elements composing the same entity, connected by their common occupation with the essence of man. […] The loss of faith which characterizes secular culture has urged artists to find new ways of dealing with the sublime as a reaction against the loss of religious divinity, and thus to serve a purpose which art and religion share.
Speaking to Art Radar about the impending closure of Museum on the Seam, Museum Director Raphie Etgar stated:
It is a great shame that we are fighting for our future. I am sure there must be someone, somewhere, that would have liked to share our goal and be a part of our mission that is mainly to call for more understanding between people and lower the level of hate and violence. Now we can still survive until the end of this year.
- Israeli artist Yael Bartana’s ‘Inferno’ at Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Norway – September 2016 – Inferno explores the depth of religious devotion and its ensuing spectacle merging past and present histories
- The body and its emotions: Israeli artist Tamar Ettun’s “The Yellow Who Wants” at Uppsala Art Museum – August 2016 – Tamar Ettun’s first solo exhibition is a discourse between sculpture and performance that examines the body’s relationship to everyday objects
- The elements of surrender: Israeli-American sculptor Galia Linn – interview – August 2016 – Art Radar talks with Galia Linn to find out how impermanence and extreme measures inspire her work
- Draped in nature: Germana-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku at Gallery 1957 – in pictures – July 2016 – German-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku’s solo show entitled “Sassa” is an eclectic blend of distinctive African fashion, native customs and an earthy natural essence
- Naziha Mestaoui: Between spiritualism, environment and technology – artist profile – August 2014 – Naziha Mestaoui creates multimedia works that weave together space, light, sound and video to produce synesthetic installations
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