The soul’s greatest expression is through art; and the Israeli people are definitely a soulful one.
Israelis are authentic and alive in their joy and warmth, as well as in their shared tragedies and painful history. We are a country made up of artists, who share their stories through the strokes of their paintbrushes, the poetry of their words, and the beauty of their photographs.
All forms of art have become a staple to Israeli culture- music, dance, theater, photography and the visual arts- and Israeli artists have flourished here since the very beginning. And yet, as we continue to grow as a country and expand our culture, Israel’s newest contemporary artists are taking center stage.
We’ve compiled a list of several of Israel’s rising and cutting-edge contemporary artists to begin exploring! Trust us, this Israeli art is not to be missed. With modern twists sitting on age-old traditions, these artists have created masterpieces- combining the old and the new, and often using their art as a call to action to help create a better world.
1. Chen Shish- currently living in Tel Aviv but originally hailing from the artistic and mystical city of Tsfat, Shish’s paintings are filled with doom and chaos at times, with hints of nature, tradition and culture at others. Her work is known to use the motif of the “eye”, and holds double meaning at times.
2. Guy Yanai- with his paintings exhibited all throughout the country, Yanai’s paintings are known for their bold colors and simplified shapes, almost creating a one-dimensional feeling to his work. His paintings are generally of everyday people and settings, bringing us back to the simplicity of life, and the ways in which we often create order and sense of the world around us.
3. Dede- with his graffiti art decorating the streets of Tel Aviv since 2006, this Israeli graffiti artist is famous for his artwork with band-aids, although the reasons for this motif are unknown. His work offers some social and political commentary at times. His graffiti of Tel Aviv’s old dolphinarium is Israel’s largest piece of illegal art- he turned it into a mouth of teeth!
4. Ilit Azoulay- an Israeli photographer born and raised in Tel Aviv, Azulay’s work questions the idea that a photograph must capture a single moment, as she brilliantly expands a photo’s ability to tell a story. While today she lives in Berlin, her past work in Tel Aviv captured the magical mystery of demolished buildings and their stories. Her panoramic works are actually collages of objects she collected from the sites after they were destroyed!
5. Noa Yekutieli- a young Israeli artist who primarily uses paper cutting to explore cross-cultural disasters, Yekutieli dives into the human experience of loss, trauma, destruction and memory. Her art creates space for collective memory of different cultures, and blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction. Today she lives in Los Angeles, CA.
6. Fatma Shana Dery- born and raised in a Druze village up north, Dery’s huge oil paintings depict the people in her own life, creating a fluidity in gender, ethnicity and culture. Many of her oil paintings sport traditional Druze rugs in unexpected places that are found in most homes. Her work can be found in the Israel Museum, among others.
7. Sigalit Landau- one of Israel’s most well-known sculptors, Landau’s work focuses primarily on the human condition within the social, historical, political and ecological context. She often uses the human body (and her own at times) as a big motif. She is well known for her Salt Works, where she made salt sculptors by immersing metal into the Dead Sea! She uses videos and multi-media in her art as well.
Israeli contemporary art swings from scandalous and provocative, to wholesome and traditional- and often bridging the two somewhere in between. As a country which represents a meeting point between so many cultures, ethnicities and religions, Israel is hotspot for contemporary art used to spread a message. Whether that message be political commentary, cultural tradition or a cry for social action, Israeli contemporary artists raise their voices loud and strong.
Where can you begin exploring Israeli art?
Israel museum- this wonderful museum located in Jerusalem is one of Israel’s most popular, with several art exhibits- both rotating exhibits and permanent ones that will fulfill all of your art needs. Additionally, they have some incredible historical, archeological and Jewish culture exhibits as well.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art- with exhibits focused on several periods and styles of art, this museum covers art history from the 16th century up until today, and is home to many famous artworks, including authentically Israeli pieces!
**Most cities actually have their own art museums to explore at your leisure- Petch Tikva, Arad, Ashdod, the Negev region, and Tsfat, just to name a few!