newsIsrael at War

Jerusalem Biennale showcases Israel’s resilience amid Gaza war

Between March 10 and April 29, the Jerusalem Spring Biennale is showcasing more than 30 art installations in some of the most interesting venues around the capital.

Jerusalem Biennale founder and director Rami Ozeri. Photo: Judy Lash Balint.
Jerusalem Biennale founder and director Rami Ozeri. Photo: Judy Lash Balint.

Israel’s war against Hamas grinds on, and Israelis struggle to come to terms with the number of dead and wounded soldiers and the heartbreak of the hostages, yet every week brings evidence of extraordinary efforts to revive and preserve the country’s vibrant cultural life.

Over the past decade, the Jerusalem Biennale established itself as the largest platform in the world for contemporary Jewish art and a much-anticipated event in Jerusalem’s cultural calendar. However, the 6th Jerusalem Biennale, which was supposed to take place last November, was canceled due to the war.  

In a display of solidarity, several of the exhibitions did get shown over the past few months in North and South America and Europe.

Now, in a massive burst of creativity, the Jerusalem Spring Biennale is holding 12 openings between March 10-22 to showcase more than 30 art installations in some of the most interesting venues around the capital, including the historic Sha’arei Tzedek building on Jaffa Road, Heichal Shlomo Museum, the Bible Lands Museum, The U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art, Museum On The Seam, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Jerusalem Theater, The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, HaMiffal, Beita Gallery, the Black Box Street Gallery and others.

All exhibits will run through April 29, 2024, and despite Israeli’s preoccupation with the war are expected to attract thousands of visitors. While most of the works were prepared before the war, some artists created new content after Oct. 7.

At a preview held at one of the sites, the U. Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art, Jerusalem Biennale founder and creative director Rami Ozeri told JNS, “The importance of staging the Biennale, bringing people together around art, was only reinforced by the current situation that affects the global Jewish world in different ways.”

Art, said Ozeri, “carries a social message that is both open to interpretation and dependent on the context. Now that context is war and even growing antisemitism. For me, the message of the art underscores our strength, which is far greater than what we may have thought—especially the strength of women. We see this in the Spring Biennale’s art, curated and created by women from Israel and overseas.”

The challenge of establishing and maintaining channels of collaboration in the international art world is now greater than ever, and more important than ever, he added. “We are absolutely committed to keeping Jerusalem on the international map of contemporary art.”  

The theme of the 2024 Biennale is Iron Flock, a literal translation of the Hebrew phrase Tzon Barzel—a term used idiomatically in contemporary Hebrew to describe shared cultural assets.  

The Threading Exhibit at the Museum of Italian Jewish Art explores the cultural assets created by Jewish women, particularly in the textile arts. 

The curator of the exhibit, Emily Bilski, told visitors that she was presiding over “a conversation between the contemporary women artists and the works of textile art in the permanent collection that were all made and dedicated by women.” 

Heddy Breuer Abramowitz, a Jerusalem artist exhibiting a piece in the textile exhibit based on an heirloom fabric that was part of her grandmother’s trousseau, told JNS, “We cannot escape the presence of the war, yet we are also starved for what elevates us in life: literature, art for the spirit and soul. The Jerusalem Biennale belongs here in this difficult place. It is important that we turn the spotlight toward Jerusalem, flaws, fissures, and yet the foundation stone of Jewish thought. 

“I am not sure whether the artists creating here would have the same rich material to pull from were they in any other place. I am also not sure seeing these art works in another place would bring the same reaction. The war has sharpened each of us who live here to being hyperaware of what is important and appreciating each patch of the crazy quilt that is our society.”

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