ON EVERY TRAVEL JOURNEY, I embark upon, I take with me my longest standing tradition – a visit to a local museum. You will not believe it, but even in the smallest cities of Europe, Russia, United States, Asia, and even Africa, you can find a museum! Ok, it may not be a typical museum, but something far more innovative like an open-air gallery or an art center in someone’s home. The main thing is that these sites reflect the cultural life of a place you are visiting and if you are interested in learning more about culture and history, and you want to understand how people live and breathe here and now at the exact moment – you need to go into a museum!
After a busy year this past year, I just wanted to buy tickets somewhere where it is relatively warm, and where I can plunge into the contemporary urban youth scene, with all the ensuing consequences. That is how my husband and I ended up on our trip to Tel Aviv.
ISRAEL DOES NOT HAVE a large art historical record of its culture, but it does have a relatively new art scene that is gaining momentum in the present with references to its past. The main mecca for lovers of visual art is the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art. It was founded in 1932 by the first Mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, in his private home on Rothschild Boulevard, and it captivates audiences with a huge collection of both temporary and permanent expositions. The museum itself makes a strong impression, as its monumentality immediately catches the eye. Adjacent to the main building, the new Herta and Paul Amir Building, inaugurated in the Fall of 2011, doubles the museum’s exhibition space. Designed by American architect Preston Scott Cohen, this innovative building is an international landmark at the center of Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural capital. Upon immediate view, you will find a five-story building of the main museum campus, consisting of two different sections made out of grey brick. The new building can rightly be called the main architectural landmark of Tel Aviv as it is a mixture of modern architecture, with the usual style for the Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus features. And in stylistics and in color, it ideally blended into the city, built in a hurry, mostly from gray concrete. So you are already beginning to touch the aesthetics of modern art coming to the doors of the museum itself.
IN ADDITION TO ITS EXTENSIVE PROGRAM of permanent and changing exhibitions, the museum offers collections of French impressionism and post-impressionism, German expressionism, Russian constructivism, Fauvism, Cubism, futurism, surrealism. The museum’s private collections exhibit the works of Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Klimt, Chagall, Dali, Kandinsky, and others. Temporary exhibitions include world contemporary artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. The Museum also likes to bring in Soviet artists like Alexander Rodchenko. If you have a time limit on your museum adventure and you do not see any names you know in the list of contemporary artists, take my advice and do not try to get around the whole new building to get to know every piece of the collection. I, like no one else, know the main problem of such expositions – the absence of a mediator – the person who could intelligently explain to you what is going on here, and what the author meant. If you do not have such a person next to you just give vent to your inner instincts and go explore for yourself. Wherever you go, not one part of the museum will not leave you indifferent. The competently constructed geometry coupled with natural light coming through the glass ceiling, penetrates the first floors of the building in a unique way. My other advice to you is to take a stroll through the museum, take chic photos, and drink coffee on the first floor; it is the mandatory part of the program of exploring the Herta and Paul Amir Building!
NEXT, I ADVISE YOU to hurry over to the private collections hall located in the old building. This is a place full of real discoveries. I personally still regret that I spent about 2 hours of my time trying to “finish off” contemporary art without a guide. The contemporary art wing almost always needs an explanation in my opinion. It is the main problem of the position of the art. It turns out to a strange story because everyone can come to an exposition but only chosen one can understand it. I advise you to set aside about 2 hours for private collections. You should study them very carefully, otherwise, you might accidentally pass by a canvas by Jackson Pollock, remembering that his paintings are usually the size of a full wall, and in this museum, you can view smaller versions. Also, do not miss René Magritte’s early works, and Giorgio de Chirico. Next, find yourself stopping by the bookstore here. I am like a book maniac – I never miss an opportunity to visit a bookstore at a museum and advise you to the same. In addition to this long journey, “find someone you know”. I promise that on the way you will discover many new names for yourself. And my last piece of advice to you is to not forget to visit the work of Marc Chagall; at the very least, as a sign of respect to the artist who is as much beautiful in his romantic view of the world. He always was and will remain so.