It’s not hard to celebrate 60 years of awe-inspiring accomplishments in the fields of art, architecture, fashion and design. It is hard however, to sum it up or highlight it or point it out for the whole world to see and exclaim together in amazement and joy, “Oh, riiiiiiiight. That was super cool. And totally Israeli.” So here, in honor of our past 60 years, are what I’ve selected as significant highlights from the past 6 decades. Let the jaw dropping begin.
Tel Aviv’s distinctive Bauhaus style reflects a strong tradition of art and craft that was brought over from Europe. But the slight alterations – replacing windows with balconies and increasing shaded areas through added cornices – account for the Middle Eastern climate thereby introducing an Israeli element to an International Style. Or perhaps recreating an older aesthetic within a new, Israeli style of living. In 2003, Tel Aviv is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and renamed the “White City“.
Don’t let these bathing beauties distract you from the real excitement of the decade: Gottex. Founded in 1949 by Leah and Ermine Gottleib, Jewish immigrants from Hungary, as a raincoat company, they turned a quick 180 degrees toward the Mediterranean sun – in recognition of our more defining climate. With Gottex’s revolutionary introduction of Spandex (yes, you can blame Israel for that one), bathing suits became lighter and clingier, allowing for Gottex to pioneer two significant swimwear crazes. First, as hemlines rose in the swinging 60s, bathing suits hiked in all directions – thanks to the miracles of Spandex and other light fabrics developed by Gottex. Second, and this relates to later decades of partying and excess as well, Gottex put glamour and fashion onto the beach. And with Gottex the concept of luxury swimwear was born and bred.
If you thought many of Israel’s corporate logos, symbols, posters or advertisements had something in common, you were right. They were either designed or influenced by Israeli graphic artist extraordinaire Dan Reisinger. Born in Yugoslavia in 1934, Reisinger’s talents were quickly identified and he was sent to study at Jerusalem’s prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Reisinger’s prolific career has enjoyed incredible hometown and international success. He has designed more than 200 social, political and cultural images and posters in Israel, including 150 logos that have become part and parcel of our everyday living. Together they serve as a visual timeline marking Israel’s most significant historical, social, economic and cultural developments over the decades. In 1971-76, Reisinger designed what we have all come to know and love (or loathe) in the form of ElAl’s corporate logo – the slanted letters, mixed Hebrew and English, blue and white. Above is a destination poster to travel with ElAl which was part of a series from 1968-71. The graphic, abstract and modern-meets-traditional, almost nostalgic but contemporary, aesthetic of Reisinger’s work continues to influence.
Just like disco its moves and grooves, so too, in a way, did the artwork of Yaakov Agam. And as the excessive and hyperextended 80s took over, Agam’s kinetic, geometric and highly colorful, conceptual art found its place in the middle of Tel Aviv’s bustling metropolis. In the form of a rotating sound and light water fountain that, along with the angular blocks of color – that really change as you look at them from different angles, represent the elements of Water and Fire. Agam’s experiments with optical, kinetic and experiential art left an indelible imprint on our canon. In this case, the spectacle placed within and about Tel Aviv’s most important crosswalk shows the city gaining a self-awareness – or perhaps a self-imposed importance – of its position as the (cultural) center of the country.
I can’t say enough about Ron Arad. I love, love, love him. He’s an incredible designer. World renown. Amazingly innovative and challenging at the same time. And from Israel. In 1989, Arad’s rapidly increasing fame and reputation for chair and furniture design led him to establish Ron Arad Associates in London. In 1994, again owing to growing success, he added a studio workshop in Italy to increase production of his studio pieces. Seating and shelvingare just some of his more famous designs that are currently either on view at major museums around the world or on sale for respectable (read: incredibly high) prices at prestigious auction houses. But with design gaining mass popularity and media attention these days, its the talent that makes Ron Arad a household name – not just the pricetag.
1999-2008 and beyond:
The Israeli Design Center in Holon where the past, present and future come together and forge ahead. Both the culmination of years of amazing art and design efforts from Israel and the (final) destination for future ones. Designed by none other than Ron Arad, the Museum’s voluminous shapes take on larger-than life presence as it guides the visitor’s experience both inside and out through a range of spirals, swirls and enveloping colored building materials (steel, concrete, stone, glass, etc). Obviously an amazing homage to Arad’s own legacy – since the works to be displayed inside the museum were undoubtedly influenced by him. Headed by Dr. Razi Amiatay, in consultation with Professor Ezri Tarazi, a celebrated designer, teacher and arts advocate in his own right, the Israeli Design Center has been gaining speed and prominence both locally and internationally with a great website (albeit in Hebrew only for now), events and conferences welcoming prominent figures from abroad, and a burgeoning student and independent artists and designers community. It is literally and figuratively the space to watch for our art and design future.
The above post was created specially for 60bloggers.com where 60 bloggers celebrate 60 years of Israel with 60 days of posts on Zionism to politics and everything in between.