Magazine article Artforum International

Art TLV, "Open Plan Living": Helena Rubenstein Pavilion

Magazine article Artforum International

Art TLV, "Open Plan Living": Helena Rubenstein Pavilion

Article excerpt

A great deal was at stake in the launch of Art TLV, a multifocal event aimed at raising awareness of Israel's up-and-coming contemporary art scene and inserting Tel Aviv into the global biennial circuit. In 2009, this coastal city will join with Athens and Istanbul to form a "Mediterranean Triangle" of biennial destinations. With this in mind, the main exhibition for Art TLV, "Open Plan Living," curated by the London-based Andrew Renton, was an attempt to define the city's specificity in its regional context. As an inaugural gesture, Renton did well to draw upon the city's Bauhaus legacy while inviting local artists and curators to organize smaller group shows of their peers in urban sites outside the official purview.

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With the highest concentration of International Style buildings in the world, Tel Aviv emerged as a vital experiment in the modernist redefinition of the relation between art and life, thanks to the European emigres who fled to Palestine in the 1930s. "Open Plan Living" was accordingly self-consciously situated as a fluid, temporary sketch of a structure that might productively house the future incarnations of Art TLV--a fitting, almost expatiating strategy for a nation dealing with the dissonance between its lofty ideological roots and their present manifestation.

The quality of the smaller local exhibitions varied greatly, but they offered an important--at times woefully unfiltered, at times exhilarating--glimpse into the current Israeli scene. In fact, the earnest rawness of performances by the duo Bney Hama (Ohad Fishof and Ishay Adar), Ori Lichtik, and Uri Katzenstein (curated by Fishof), or the brazen irreverence of Ayal Goldberg, Gilad Ratman, and Ruti Sela (curated by Doron Rabina), stood in stark contrast to the pristine formalism and homogeneous tenor of Renton's main event--an amalgam of thirty-one artists from different cultural contexts, including nine born in Israel, all of whom fluently speak the language of modernism and flawlessly performed its permutations. …

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