Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art has opened its long-awaited satellite space in Jaffa, a historical port town in the south of Tel Aviv, Israel.

Magasin III Jaffa opened on 20 January 2018 with a show by Israeli-born American artist Haim Steinbach, his first solo exhibition in Israel. Art Radar looks at the history of Magasin III and its launch show in Jaffa.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

Founded in 1987, Magasin III is a Stockholm-based private institution devoted to bringing international contemporary art to Sweden. In addition to its ambitious exhibitions, the foundation has a growing collection of works by internationally established artists.

Since it was founded by curator David Neuman over three decades ago, the institution has been an innovative platform for contemporary art as well as supporting its production, by collaborating with artists on commissions of new work. In its history, it has staged presentations by artists such as Lars Nilsson, Ernesto Neto, Alfredo Jaar, Tamara Henderson, Katharina Grosse, Christian Boltanski, and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, photo Youval Hai

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

A new art space for Tel Aviv

The expansion to Tel Aviv comes during a two-year hiatus of Magasin III’s Stockholm space. The converted warehouse in the Frihamnen (old port) neighbourhood closed with an exhibition of works by Tony Oursler in June 2017. The so-called “intermission” will see a strategic rethink of the institution, as well as a collaboration with Stockholm University on a new exhibition space opening in 2019.

As the Director of Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Tessa Praun, says:

The public program at Magasin III in Stockholm is currently closed. Over the next two years, the Museum will examine alternative ways to engage with visitors and take the opportunity to fully evaluate how it can best continue to support art and artists both nationally and internationally. Further details of future programming in Stockholm will be announced in 2018. The Stockholm team is of course also engaged in supporting the satellite space.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, photo Youval Hai

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

Working with a team of Tel Aviv natives, including curator and General Manager Karmit Galili, Magasin III Jaffa aims to fill a gap in the rapidly-expanding international art scene of Israel’s cultural capital, while responding to the eclectic mix of Christian, Jewish and Muslim populations and commercial hubbub of Jaffa. Galili says:

This is a truly exciting addition to our city. The satellite defines Magasin III’s longstanding involvement with the cultural scene in Israel. The area where Magasin III Jaffa is located has a rich and mixed history and we are very much looking forward to contributing to it and engaging with new audiences.

Haim Steinbach, "hallelujah" (2017). Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, photo Youval Hai

Haim Steinbach, “hallelujah” (2017). Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

After extensive renovations, Magasin III opened in the ground floor of an Ottoman stone house, between a hairdresser and a houseware shop on 34 Olei Zion, a residential neighbourhood that borders with Jaffa’s famous flea market. The exhibition site was carefully selected to be easily accessible to all residents. Indeed, the space itself has been designed to enable the exhibitions to be seen from the outside at all times – seven days a week. Situated between two small parallel streets, the museum’s dual glass frontage creates an open tunnel-like space between them.

Selecting Israeli-American artist Haim Steinbach for its inaugural exhibition, Magasin III Jaffa extends founder David Neuman’s particular consideration of site-specificity and social contexts. The exhibition of Steinbach’s work, entitled “zerubbabel”, marks the launch of a diverse programme at Magasin III Jaffa that will feature both international and local artists.

As Neuman notes,

Haim Steinbach belongs to the most quintessential group of Contemporary artists—those that so importantly have pushed the boundaries of visual expression. The upcoming exhibition will clearly establish a benchmark for future presentations at Magasin III Jaffa. It is our utmost pleasure to present Haim Steinbach’s art to local and international audiences.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, Photo Youval Hai

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

Framing Devices: Haim Steinbach

Haim Steinbach was born in 1944 in Rehovot, Palestine, and has lived in the United States since 1957. He received a BFA from Pratt Institute in 1968, followed by an MFA from Yale University in Connecticut in 1973 and currently has a studio in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. Throughout his career, Steinbach has exhibited his work at major museums worldwide. In 2013, the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in New York presented a solo exhibition of the artist’s work since the early 1970s, entitled “once again the world is flat, which travelled to Kunsthalle Zurich and Serpentine Gallery, London. His work has been included in many major international group exhibitions, such as the Paris Triennale in 2012, the 47th Venice Biennale in 1997, the 9th Biennale of Sydney in 1992, and Documenta IX, Kassel, in 1992.

In his artistic practice, Steinbach selects and arranges objects in ways that give emphasis to their aesthetic presence and physical arbitrariness. These objects come from a spectrum of social and cultural contexts and are put together in a way that is analogous to the arrangement of words in a poem, or to the musical notes in a score. Steinbach’s work sets forth new contexts for a wide range of objects that are handmade and mass-produced, ordinary as well as extraordinary, new and old.

Steinbach often refers to the structures he builds for the objects he presents as “framing devices”. Shelves by any other name, these devices function to display the objects and to give equal weighting to each, regardless of their position in cultural hierarchies.

In this way, Steinbach sets up an antagonism within his work between high and low culture, the unique and the multiple, the personal and the universal. Steinbach considers both the objects themselves, and the language that forms the titles of his works as ‘found objects’. His titles come from a range of vernacular sources, such as texts, headings in magazines or adverts. They are often statements and sayings that may be idiomatic, allegorical or proverbial.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, Photo Youval Hai

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

“zerubabbel” presents ten works by Steinbach from the last five years that focus on the essence of text, imagery and colour. The show consists of a striking yellow wall painting, thelionking (2016), as well as the large-scale pantonecoolgray10 (2016) and smaller tuttifrutti (2016), both wall paintings designed in vinyl decal and acrylic paint.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, Photo Youval Hai

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, Photo Youval Hai

Four handcrafted wood and glass boxes are shown mounted along one wall of the gallery, each displaying a different metal storage container produced by Pantone, a company best known for its innovative system for identifying, matching and communicating colours.

In these works, Steinbach explores our understanding of colours, through the structures and framing devices of their presentation. On an adjacent wall, a fifth wooden vitrine, Untitled (bocce ball) (2013), contains a wooden bocce ball. The context of a work is important to Steinbach, and in his wall paintings he uses the architecture to duplicate the space, heightening the viewer’s perception of it spatially.

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Courtesy Magasin III Jaffa, photo Youval Hai

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

Haim Steinbach, Magasin III Jaffa

Installation view, Magasin III Jaffa. Image courtesy Magasin III Jaffa. Photo: Youval Hai.

In his transformation of quotidian objects through the conditions of their display, Steinbach is engaging with the historical legacy of the readymade, and further, in these recent works, that of hard-edge abstraction à la Frank Stella.

Rather than considering his contextual manipulations as an act of appropriation, Steinbach looks at the work in relation to the role of chance and contingency, and how the artist can facilitate these extra-human forces by giving up creative control. In an interview with frieze magazine on the occasion of the show, he discussed the exhibition’s title, stating:

The show’s ‘title’ ‘zerubabbel’ is another found object. It means ‘coincidence’: accepting what happens to you. Accepting a chain reaction […]. I was going to do a project in Israel, and it happened to be Hanukkah and I was lighting the candles with my 13-year-old son and we were singing Ma’oz Tzur, in which the name Zerubabbel appears. I found the word to be an interesting object because of its sound and rhythm, like a ruby, a precious stone. Why not throw this stone in the bucket of stones that I have here? It’s a found object, that’s why it is written in lower case letters. This is what I do with all my found objects. Somebody may not like ‘zerubabbel’, due to the fact that the word is limping: Ze Ru Ba Bel.

In “zerubabbel”, Steinbach uses colour as both subject and object, creating works that playfully interrogate the figure/ground relationship of his chosen medium and the architectonic construction of Magasin III Jaffa.

Jessica Clifford

2072

“zerubabbel” by Haim Steinbach is on view from 20 January to 13 July 2018 at Magasin III Jaffa, 34 Olei Zion, 6813131 Tel Aviv – Yafo.

Related topics: Philanthopists, foundations, Israeli artists, found object, museum shows

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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