PeopleArtists 01-06-2016

Reflections on contemporary Israel through a newspaper’s art collection | The Haaretz collection

After showing a deep engagement in Israeli art for over more than twenty years, Haaretz — Israel’s oldest newspaper, owning one of the largest israeli art collection in the country — founded Minus1 in 2014.

“Spacetime”, curated by Efrat Livny, is the second exhibition taking place at Minus1, an art space that adjoins the newspaper’s offices. Whilst Haaretz’s collection is mostly made up of  paintings and photographs, the new exhibition, running until July, showcases less conventional art forms such as installation and video. The left-wing Israeli newspaper began assembling its collection more than twenty years ago, under the direction of Amos Schocken, who had always been driven by a desire to support artists. The newspaper and the collection are in many ways intertwined. Today, they both represent Israeli society as a whole, while also attesting to the changes it has undergone over recent decades. H A P P E N I N G met Efrat Livny, the collection’s curator.


How did the project begin?

It  all began with a studio visit that Amos made in the beginning of the nineties, during which he realized that he was drawn to art, that it was possible to buy art and that doing so would be a great encouragement to the artist.
I began working here [at Haaretz] 20 years ago. Back then, the newspaper’s collection included several dozens pieces that needed referencing and cataloguing. Most of them were stored, but gradually we started decorating the office walls with artworks, and our journalists had the chance to choose which ones they wanted to see displayed in their private offices.
When it started, it was simply a matter of buying here and there. It was a long time after everybody else called it a collection, that we acknowledged our own activity as a collector activity and the works we had accumulated as a collection.
The collection is limited to Israeli art only. We are interested in the cultural links that these works generate, which then enable us to create stimulating interactions between the works themselves and the various social and cultural issues that contemporary lsrael is facing, which in return  also allows us to understand the works better.
An important element of our activity is getting to know the artists, meeting them in their studios and having conversations with them. We are eager to learn what their work is concerned with.
Because we often buy from young artists in the early stage of their careers, sometimes we are unable to buy works from later stages. Take, for instance, Tal Mazliach. We bought many of her artworks in the past — works from her first and second exhibitions — but today we would not be able to, as her prices have become too expensive for us.


What was your initial ambition with this collection?

Our main motivation is to support the art field and encourage artists, to enable them to keep on creating and exhibiting art. We never thought that the collection would become as large and comprehensive as it is today, but it slowly grew, reflecting the last decades of Israeli art.
In the 2000s we were forced to considerably slow down the rhythm of our purchases, because of the first Intifada, the recession of Israeli economy and the beginning of the internet era.

Nevet Yitzhak, The concert, installation view (2013) 

But the collection is still evolving. Not only in terms of acquisitions, but also in terms of coordinating the work of researchers and curators. We lend a lot of artworks, and we also organize visits to both the Minus1 space and the newspaper’s offices for groups, curators and museum members from Israel and from all over the world.


What type of relationship do you establish with artists? 

We have strong and long-term relationships with many artists, some of whom we follow from the beginning. They feel free to talk to us about all kind of questions about their career decisions, like where to exhibit or which galleries or residencies to apply to, or how to cover the expenses of exhibition catalogues or university tuition.

Naama Tsabar, Laila february 23 2014 (2014) mixed media 

In the last few years we have also sponsored artworks from some prominent young Israeli artists such as Nevet Ytzhak, Ido Michaeli and Naama Tsabar. Mahmood Kaiss is an example of a young Israeli-Palestinian artist that we support from the earliest stages of his career.


What are your plans for the future of Minus1?

The collection reached a stage and a scope that call for an overview and reflexive research to give insight into its theoretical and historical context and depth.
The first exhibition in Minus1, titled “Profile is Aggression, Too”, focused on the politics of portraits, examining the duality of certain labels, for instance the conflict between  the ideas of “war hero” and “terrorist”.
“SpaceTime”, our current exhibition, is focusing on new media art, (video art and installation) wherein time and space feature both as materials and themes. In the future, the exhibitions will deal with other aspects and themes in the collection. We will organize other group exhibitions but we will also introduce solo ones. We also plan on inviting independent curators to contribute with their own point of view on the collection.

“Spacetime” is on display through July 1st

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