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"The Haifa Way" / New exhibition celebrating Haifa Museum of Art's 70th anniversary

Haifa Museum of Art is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. To mark this significant milestone, a large-scale exhibition, "The Haifa Way," extending throughout the entire museum, will open on June 17, examining Haifa Museum of Art's rich, unique collection, culled over 70 years of extensive artistic work. The exhibition sets out to decipher the museum's identity through an examination of its collections, thereby set new goals for the museum to be realized in the future. In the short range, the exhibition seeks to take part in healing the social wounds in Israel in general, and in Haifa in particular, whose depth has recently been revealed in inter-communal conflicts. Furthermore, it strives to propose a reading of art history in Israel that gives room to different voices.

Established in 1951, Haifa Museum of Art is one of the first museums founded in Israel. The exhibition "The Haifa Way" presents the museum's unique identity by reviewing the masterpieces in its collections, recognizing that it is a museum's collection that determines its genetic code, and that each new work entrusted for safekeeping joins its predecessors in shaping the museum's identity. Haifa Museum of Art's collection spans approximately 8,000 works, representing Israel's leading artists. The exhibition offers visitors a chance to acquaint themselves with canonical works that have shaped local art.
Exhibiting the collection allows for a new look at art in Israel, offering an alternative reading of the history of local art. The exhibition reviews the history of art in Israel from the 1950s onward from a Haifa perspective, focusing on major artists active in Haifa and the country's north, including Michael Gross, Batia Grossbard, Hannah Levy, and Gershon Knispel—pivotal figures in the history of art in the area, who are represented in the collection by significant bodies of work.
Haifa's topography is also reflected in the exhibition, which extends over the museum's two floors, introducing two perspectives on art in Israel: the upper floor overlooks its surroundings from a distance, as if observing from the heights of Mount Carmel, revealing natural, agricultural, and urban views in varying degrees of abstraction. The museum's first level, in contrast, offers a close-up glance at the individual and his/her encounter with the collective, inevitably raising social and political issues responding to the museum's immediate surroundings—Hadar HaCarmel, Wadi Nisnas, and Wadi Salib neighborhoods. These two perspectives encapsulate a unique collection that delves into questions related to the place: the city of Haifa, with all its complexities and wonders.
The museum's 70th anniversary is also an opportunity for introspection, and a rethinking of the museum's future. Dr. Kobi Ben-Meir, the Chief Curator who took office in January 2021, chose two main goals for the coming years, after carefully examining the collection. The first is bridging gaps in the collection and ensuring apt representation of established Palestinian artists active in the country's north. Haifa's character as a mixed city with a long tradition of coexistence necessitates the inclusion of these artists. To our great joy, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary, groundbreaking Haifa-based artist Abed Abdi donated his drawing Workers in Haifa Bay (1962) to the museum. The second goal is to strengthen Haifa Museum of Art's status as a center of culture that initiates dialogue and creation, and to reinforce its ties with the community of artists working in the city. "The Haifa Way" highlights these goals by interspersing works received on loan from Arab and Jewish artists among the works from the collection. These loans mark the museum's natural allies and partners: the local art community.
Haifa Museum of Art believes that art has the power to stimulate a public discourse. The exhibition introduces ample encounters between works that give rise to an open, authentic discourse within Israeli society. One hall, for example, juxtaposes David Adika's iconic photograph Beauty (Miri Bohadana), portraying Mizrahi beauty that does not align with the ideal of Western beauty, with Abed Abdi's powerful painting Refugees Waiting for their Return, and Gershon Knispel's masterpiece The Employment Bureau, depicting Arab and Mizrahi Jewish laborers lined up before the doors of the employment office, indicating their common fate, regardless of sector. Observation of these three works side by side raises questions about a potential partnership between Arabs and Mizrahi-Jews in Israel.
In this sense, the exhibition looks toward the day after the inter-communal violence that erupted in May 2021, wishing to take part in healing the wounds of Israeli society, by echoing the multiple voices in Israel. The city of Haifa has always been marked by its Arab-Jewish partnership, and Haifa Museum of Art takes the task upon itself of spearheading and reinforcing this partnership, and increasing the space for dialogue.

Curator: Kobi Ben-Meir, Chief Curator,
Haifa Museum of Art Read more

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