A blog post (or news article? who can tell anymore?) in the New York Times today relates that a number of peaceful, quiet anti-Zionist (pro-Palestinian) activists were kicked out of an art gallery earlier this month.
The exhibition, entitled “Next Year in Jerusalem,” was one of art by a German artist relating to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. “Next Year in Jerusalem,” or “L’shanah Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim” in transliterated Hebrew, is something we say at the end of every Passover seder (ritual dinner), and on other occasions, alluding to the time of the Messiah and the return of all Jews to the Holy Land. The activists cleverly appropriated this phrase, wearing it in English, Hebrew, and Arabic on the fronts of their T-shirts, which read “U.S. Boat to Gaza // The Audacity of Hope” on the back. They’re apparently trying to organize an American boat to join an anti-blockade run to Gaza, to challenge Israel’s efforts to keep its own citizens safe by isolating the terrorists from anything that could be used to build bombs or to otherwise attack Israel.
It was a small group of protesters, and they simply visited the exhibit, quietly, respectfully, walking around, looking at the art, taking pictures like every other visitor was doing, only speaking when being spoken to. No human chains, no megaphones, no yelling, no picket signs, nothing, so far as I can tell from this NYTimes report.
And then they were asked to leave, and there was a threat made of the police being called if they didn’t voluntarily leave the property. Now they were trespassing. So, they left.
As much as I could not disagree more with the group’s politics, I appreciate their methods, and the ironic, profound, and meaningful way they employed the discourses addressed by the art exhibit, as well as traditional Jewish phrases (“Next Year in Jerusalem”) and the more recent, but very prominent, American phrase.
I appreciate “their claims to be extending the discussion that Kiefer had begun. Morality. Guilt. Jewish tragedy, past and present.” as described in the NYTimes report. That’s what modern/contemporary art is all about. Discussions. Discourse. Debates. Engaging with the themes and ideas and questions that the art raises.
That’s what art is all about. And yet, one of the gallery staff had the gall to say, as quoted in the article, “This is private property. We’re here to sell art.”
Excuse me? We’re here to sell art? I could not be more disgusted by this woman’s apparent attitude about the art world. I bet she views art not by its content, what makes it interesting, appealing, innovative, or attractive, but by how much it could be worth.
I apologize to judge you based on a single comment, anonymous gallerista, but, I spit on your shoes. Ptui.
If the purpose of this exhibit was not to continue a discussion on issues relating to the Holocaust, but rather to exploit the subject for monetary gain, then… I can hardly think of a more immoral, distasteful, disgusting thing for a gallery to do. Such a prominent gallery as Gagosian, I expected better of you.
Image from linked New York Times post. Copyright Laurie Arbeiter.