The 5th Jerusalem Biennale (JB2021) will take place November 11 – December 30, 2021, under the theme Four Cubits. Four Cubits (ארבע אמות) refers, in Jewish tradition, to a person’s private space – a concept that resonates with contemporary meaning in these global pandemic times. A cubit is an ancient measurement of length, where four cubits equate to about two meters. Under this title, JB2021 will explore how art functions in our homes, offices and studios, striving to create new ways of sharing art in the private space and to expand the art experience beyond public and semi-public spaces.
Participating in JB2021 are more than three hundred professional artists of all backgrounds, mainly from Israel this year but also from the USA, UK, Italy, Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, United Emirates and Argentina. JB2021 will take place in various historic and cultural venues around the capital, as in previous editions, with the addition this year of private spaces, in keeping with both the Jerusalem Biennale theme and the current pandemic era.
The Jerusalem Biennale Founder and Creative Director Rami Ozeri: “This year’s Jerusalem Biennale is very different from previous editions where we would gather in museums, galleries and other public spaces to share the art experience. This year, we are asking the question is art part of our private domain? Do we have meaningful artworks on the walls of our living room, bedroom or kitchen?? And if so, what should we do to take this one step further and share this art with family, friends or even strangers?”
The 2021 Jerusalem Biennale’s program will consist of three major components, all of which will work according to a hybrid model, with both an in-person and online presence.
#TakeMeHome. In this core project of JB2021 at the Jerusalem Biennale’s permanent home in the historic building of Sha’arei Tzedek, more than a hundred contemporary artists will exhibit artworks that, in their view, visitors would want to take home to enrich their private space. Visitors will enjoy the “regular” art experience of viewing the 200 selected artworks, mindful that, at the end of their visit, they will be able to choose an artwork they would like to display at home – if they are chosen in a lottery. At the end of the JB2021, some of the artworks will be loaned to the winners for a six-month period, after which they may purchase the work, if they wish
The works of #TakeMeHome will be accompanied by a few related installations, among them a solo exhibition of the artist Sari Srulovitch and installations by Koen Vanmachelen (Belgium), Shuli Bornstein Wolf, Linda Lieff Altabef, Ken Goldman, Yehudit Bermatz and Rachel Rotenberg.
Venues will host group exhibitions in different Jerusalem institutions, connecting architecture, history and art. Among the selected venues are the Tower of David Museum, HaMiffal, Jerusalem Print Workshop, the art gallery of Mishkenot, the Agripas 12 Gallery and the Gesher Guest House. Five of them feature the participation of international artists.
Between a Break and a Breakdown: Jewelry as a Mirror for the Current Period, Tower of David Museum. Curated and initiated by Israeli contemporary jeweler Ariel Lavian, this exhibition presents works by 16 contemporary jewelers from Turkey and eight from Israel, living in different realities, isolated in their own studios, yet creating together, all affected by the forced breaks (lockdowns) and social alienation.
Crossquery, Shaarei Tzedek, curated by Stephanie Manasseh (Brussels). Renowned Belgian multi-disciplinary artist Koen Vanmechelen’s solo installation deals with life in stages, with the Baladi, Israel’s indigenous breed of chicken, at its center. In a big cage, two Baladi hens stroll about. They will become part of Vanmechelen’s long-term crossbreeding art project, the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, by crossbreeding with the Mechelse Hrvatica presented in a portrait on the wall.
Voyage Around My Room, Mishkenot, curated by Ermanno Tedeschi and Vera Pilpoul and in collaboration with the Italian Institute. This exhibition features the work of 12 Italian artists and four Israeli artists, exploring the concept of the room, and the relationship between two ever-evolving metrics of self-expression, personal space and our personhood. The space of the room is revealed to be an infinite world in which man realizes his true freedom.
Maktoub, Jerusalem Theater, curated by Lenore Cohen-Mizrachi and Chama Mechtaly. This exhibition hosts calligraphy artists from the UAE and Israel, made possible by the recently signed Abraham Accords. The power of the written word is venerated in both Islamic and Jewish culture; language has likewise played a profound role in preserving and shaping the cultural identities of both peoples. As sister languages, Arabic and Hebrew represent a natural starting point to broaden understanding. It is hoped that this first phase of a program of the Jerusalem Biennale, will expand into a residency and further collaboration between calligraphy artists in UAE and Israel.
The House is in the Book, Jerusalem Print Workshop, curated by Emily Bilski. In this exhibition, a new collaborative book created during lockdown by artists Andi Arnovitz (Israel), Lynne Avadenka (USA), and Mirta Kupferminc (Argentina), employs a shared repertoire of images developed through virtual communication as each artist worked alone in her studio.
Other exhibitions include:
Hearing Silence, Mamilla art galleries, curated by Vanessa De Loya. This collection of works explores how artists have continued creating as our worlds have shrunk to the size of our lockdowns. This collection will be presented in four different locations around the Mamilla area in the center of Jerusalem.
Private Domain, Agripas Gallery, curated by Gabi Yair. Four Israeli women artists with rich life experiences share a common denominator of producing art over decades in their own four cubits, yet continually renewing themselves. A year of internal observation, focus, and research has led them to similar themes associated with the four cubits concept.
Nuclear Capsule, Black Box Gallery, curated by Asaf Cohen and Yitzhak Mizrahi. The exhibition is the story of an era, a photographic depiction of nine Jerusalem families, “imprisoned in lightboxes”. The families formed “capsules” – units defined by the physical space within which they are living, each “capsule” within its own “four cubits.” The home itself is the outer shell of the capsule, with the communities unknown to one another, each sealed in its own capsule.
A Room (Cheder), HaMiffal, curated by Meydad Eliyahu. Five promising emerging Israeli artists create an exhibition during their residency at HaMiffal, dedicated to site-specific drawing. Cheder drawing lab is a new space, one of its kind in Israel, for the research and study of drawing, located in Seraphim House which serves as a source of inspiration and dialogue for actions of drawing in the lab.
PHASEs (Private Homes Art Space Events) is a new model for intimate gatherings around art, developed by the Jerusalem Biennale in response to the constraints of the pandemic, in which audiences will be invited to visit artistic private spaces for more intimate experiences around art, workshops, lectures and conversations. Each project will be documented throughout the process, resulting in short online videos that may facilitate a more global conversation on what it means to bring art into the private space.
These events include, among others, Motta Brim, the Haredi artist who inspired the popular series Shtisel, talking (in Hebrew) about his art and his upbringing in his home; Linda Zisquit telling the story of ARTSPACE, a gallery which operates out of her private home; Bitya Roznak will host an event in the glassmaking studio in her back yard that will include music and live performance; Ruth Shreiber at her exhibition in Ramban Synagogue which deals with contemporary pregnancy and childbirth techniques and practices; Anat Golan’s exhibition in the historic home of the father of modern Hebrew Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who has created objects, jewelry and Judaica using technical goldsmithing techniques and the abstract characteristics of words from traditional goldsmithing; Porat Salomon, Ossi Yalon and Debbie Margalit will create an installation at Beit Schatz, the historic home of Bezalel founder Boris Schatz and his descendants; Jane Labaton at her home studio in Baka who breaks her own cardinal rule of allowing people access to her private space; Sam Griffin at the Artist’s Studio in Beit Alliance, who explores two main themes in his paintings: his search for his family history and the daily pursuit of holiness.
Gallery talks, panel discussions with artists and curators, music and dance performances, guided tours in English and Hebrew will be available, some online as well as in person. Public venues will have individual opening events. Visiting PHASEs will be by pre-registration only. Tickets this year for all public venues are free of charge, except for the Tower of David Museum. A fee for certain events may be charged.