Can artists bring art back to the people? This question seems to stand at the core of the Reservoir project at BAAD Gallery, which opened last May in Tel Aviv.
The massive social movement that dominated the streets of Israel in the summer of 2012 might not have brought a significant political change yet, but it did seem to shake at least part of the local art scene. The Reservoir project, one of the first exhibitions to take possession of the new BAAD Gallery, resonates with questions and ideals that appear to form at the crux of the social and the artistic.
The idea behind Reservoir is to create an exhibition which is curated by the artists who expose in it. Every artist, whose work is chosen gets the opportunity to recommend a piece by another artist, to be displayed in the BAAD space. The result is an artistic chain reaction, made up of a selection of works out of an existing archive of 400 contemporary paintings, videos, performance art, as well as stabiles and statues, of 250 Israeli artists. A ‘reservoir’ of art works, from which the exposed ones were chosen, dominates the gallery space, making the transition from ‘archive’ to exposition a more fluid, natural one. This collection of archived works, wrapped in plastic and stacked in metal racks, is as much a part of the exhibition as the pieces on the wall.
The central question the project addresses is whether it is possible to create an exhibition without the influence of an all-powerful curator. In its declaration of intent, BAAD presents this as an attempt to question and undermine the current commodification of art that has taken over the artistic creation, thereby weakening its capacity to play a social role in society.
BAAD addresses this issue of art commercialisation through the larger prism of the growing social exclusion in Israel in general, and in Tel Aviv in particular, positioning this work as a countering act to the gentrification of the particular neighbourhood in which it settled.
Another issue raised in this context is the place of the artist in art installations. The format chosen by Jonathan Touitou, who heads this project, transforms the shaping of an exhibition space into a collaborative operation of peers, rather than placing the power of art work selection and narrative building in the hands of an exterior curator.
The fact that the BAAD Gallery is owned by the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design might explain in part the idealistic trends that influence the concept of Reservoir. But as thoughtful as its aspirations may be, they still risk stumbling upon their own ambitions. In its call for proposals, BAAD stated it wished to create a ‘precise and realistic map of contemporary Israeli Art’, but the multiplicity of choice-makers who influence the make-up of the project without a unifying guideline make this goal a particularly difficult one to achieve.
In any case, even if randomness may be ruling the choice of works, the Reservoir project is still an interesting opportunity to get a glimpse at a body of work representing, at least in part, Israeli artistic creation at this point in time.
60 Salame st., Tel Aviv.
Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday – 12:00-18:00; Wednesday – 18:00-20:00; Friday – 12:00-14:00.