Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary art’

America’s Least Wealthy Art Collectors See 50/50 Vision Realized

June 5, 2014

This article was first published in The Times of Israel.

Herb and Dorothy Vogel in the living room of their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, where they kept 2,400 works of art. (Courtesy of Fineline Media)

Herb and Dorothy Vogel in the living room of their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, where they kept 2,400 works of art. (Courtesy of Fineline Media)

Audiences around the United States are streaming into museums to view contemporary art collections enriched by two of the country’s least wealthy art patrons. Although Herbert and Dorothy Vogel are retired civil servants without independent means who live in a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, they amassed a collection of close to 5,000 pieces of conceptual and minimalist art. In 2008, they gifted 50 works to 50 museums, one in each state.

The Vogels donated the art works with the provision that they would be exhibited within five years. Now, midway through 2014, nearly all of the museums have complied with the stipulation, and a film has been made documenting the impact of the Vogel’s 50/50 vision on the museums and their audiences.

“Herb & Dorothy 50×50” by Brooklyn-based director Megumi Sasaki, reveals the Vogels’ story captivates museumgoers and art lovers as much as the art itself. (The film is a sequel to the 2008 film “Herb & Dorothy,” which introduced the couple to an audience outside the art world.)

“The story of Herb and Dorothy goes beyond a story of art,” Sasaki tells The Times of Israel. “I think the most striking thing is that they could have been millionaires, but they never sold anything. It’s hard to believe such people exist — especially in New York!”

Click here to read more and watch the film trailer.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.




Reaching For Utopia

October 10, 2013

This cover story was first published in JWeekly.

Oded Meromi's "1967" at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Oded Meromi’s “1967” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (photo credit: Johnna Arnold)

If the state of the world is getting you down, head over to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for a glimpse of utopia.

The new exhibit “Work in Progress: Considering Utopia” explores the concept of utopia from Jewish and contemporary perspectives. It features installations by two New York–based Israeli artists — sculptor Ohad Meromi, and photographer and video artist Oded Hirsch — and a mural by local artist Elisheva Biernoff.

In conjunction with “Utopia” is the smaller exhibit “To Build & Be Built: Kibbutz History,” which explores the key role ideologically driven kibbutzim, or collective agricultural communities, have played in the establishment and growth of the State of Israel over the past century — and how they’ve adjusted to modern times.

“To Build & Be Built” brings museum visitors face to face with the real-world problems Israeli kibbutzim have faced throughout their history — beginning with the early settlements in 1909 by European Jewish pioneers, through the 1948 War of Independence, and into the late 20th century when the collectives faced immense economic and social pressures. The exhibition’s three sections, “Early Settlements,” “Communal Culture” and “Kibbutz Today,” give an overview of the kibbutz’s trajectory over the last 100 years…

Elisheva Biernoff’s “The Tools Are in Your Hands” (photo credit: Johnna Arnold)

Elisheva Biernoff’s “The Tools Are in Your Hands” (photo credit: Johnna Arnold)

…The kibbutz exhibit “provides Jewish context for ‘Work in Progress,’” said CJM executive director Lori Starr. “We want to engage our audience with the subject of utopia, and the questions are more important than the answers.” Programming planned around the two exhibitions — including music, films and workshops — will allow visitors to ask and think about those questions.

“Work in Progress,” in fact, encourages visitor engagement.

For example: “1967,” a multipiece work by Meromi that was specially commissioned for “Work in Progress,” invites people up to a stage, even providing costumes.

“1967” is “one installation made up of separate pieces,” Meromi explained recently as he showed a reporter several sculptures that lead toward the installation’s centerpiece — a wooden stage inspired by the dining hall/community gathering space the artist recalls from visits to his grandparents at Kibbutz Mizra, which they helped found. The Brooklyn-based artist was born on the kibbutz, but grew up in the suburbs of Tel Aviv.

Colorful, geometrically shaped sculptural elements of the stage’s construction reference 20th-century Russian Constructivism and connect to the socialist origins of the kibbutz. Along the edge of the stage are concrete tiles with scenes imprinted using geometric shapes mirroring shapes seen elsewhere on stage. There is one tile for each year since 1967, the year Meromi was born and Israel conquered much of the land that is still in dispute today.

Meromi suggests there are several main ideas he is trying to express with “1967.” The story he tells through the tiles is about grounding utopia in reality. “My idea of utopia cannot ignore reality,” he explained. “We need to look at where we are living.”

Museum visitors will be invited at various times up to the stage to participate in guided “activations” that encourage creative exploration of the utopia-related themes embedded in Meromi’s work. The installation also includes costumes for visitors to don. They were designed by Meromi’s sister, Ayala Meromi Keinan, a Tel Aviv–based fashion designer whose brand is Gusta. It’s the first name of their grandmother, who was in charge of the kibbutz’s clothing warehouse.

“I used real Home Depot–type materials: wood, concrete, aluminum and fabric,” Meromi said, all reminiscent of the simple materials used by the pioneers to build the kibbutzim. “There’s a socialist approach in the materials and how I used them. There’s no distinction between factory and stage.”

Also, given the basic materials he used, “I’m thinking about the world as a place that is still in the making,” he said. “It’s about being together in the making. You can work together to horrible directions, too, but what is essential is working together and being straightforward and honest with one another in the process.”

Click here to read the full article.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Modern and Contemporary Art Beyond Belief

July 1, 2013

This article was first published as “The Jewish sides of Rothko, Mondrian and Pollock” in The Times of Israel.

Wallace Berman, Untitled (400.300.50), 1974; stone, metal, and acrylic (photo credit: Collection SFMOMA)

Wallace Berman, Untitled (400.300.50), 1974; stone, metal, and acrylic (photo credit: Collection SFMOMA)

SAN FRANCISCO —The Jewish American artist Mark Rothko once said, “The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”

Lovers of Rothko’s creations, along with that of other 20th century visionaries like Piet Mondrian, Alberto Giacometti, and Jackson Pollock, will likely say it is more than mere aesthetic sensibilities that draw them to these works. Some people are spiritually moved by modern art, and San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum is hoping even more will be when they view its new “Beyond Belief” exhibition.

“Beyond Belief: 100 Years of the Spiritual in Modern Art,” on view until October 27, is a collaboration between CJM and its neighbor, theSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, that explores the connection between spirituality and modern and contemporary art. Closed for expansion, SFMOMA has loaned more than 60 pieces — some popular favorites, some rarely seen, and some completely new acquisitions — from its renowned collection for this show.

The paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photographs, videos, and installations span an entire century, from 1911 to 2011. Arranged thematically according to ten Jewish theological concepts, the exhibition includes 62 pieces by 49 artists, one-quarter of whom are living and nine of whom are Jewish.

“These are beloved works of art that we couldn’t stand to think about being tucked away in storage for the next two years,” said Janet Bishop, SFMOMA curator of painting and sculpture, speaking to the audience at a recent preview showing of the exhibition. “Beyond Belief” is the first of many partnerships planned between SFMOMA and other cultural institutions that will keep its collection on view while SFMOMA’s building is under construction over the next two years.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.