New TLV art space aims to elevate Israeli art aesthetic

Nassima-Landau, founded by art collector Steeve Nassima and former TLV Museum of Art director Suzanne Landau, will showcase emerging international artists alongside locals

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Art collector Steeve Nassima and former Tel Aviv Museum of Art director and curator Suzanne Landau prior to the opening of Nassima-Landau, a new Tel Aviv art space that opened November 24, 2020 (Courtesy Meir Cohen)
Art collector Steeve Nassima and former Tel Aviv Museum of Art director and curator Suzanne Landau prior to the opening of Nassima-Landau, a new Tel Aviv art space that opened November 24, 2020 (Courtesy Meir Cohen)

It’s been a dark period for the art world, as museums, galleries and art spaces have been shuttered for most of the last eight months.

A new Tel Aviv art space, Nassima-Landau, is pushing reset on that mode, bringing a flood of figurative art to Israel, with the bold, colorful works of international and Israeli artists hung on its clean white walls.

The space, which opened Tuesday, November 24 (with visitors welcome in capsules) is the joint project of Steeve Nassima, a Belgian art collector and advisor and Suzanne Landau, former director and chief curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

The idea behind the centrally-located art space, on Tel Aviv’s Ahad Ha’am Street, is to help put young Israeli and international artists on the map by creating a space that isn’t a gallery or museum, but rather an art location that adds a different tone and vibe to the local art scene.

‘High Voltage,’ the nascent exhibit of the new Nassima-Landau art space in Tel Aviv that opened November 24, 2020 (Courtesy Nassima-Landau)

This first exhibit, “High Voltage,” open November 24 through January 16, features 35 works by 15 promising artists, some them newly emerging, others more established and most being exposed in Israel for the first time.

The featured artists in this first exhibit are Henni Alftan, Derek Aylward, Jonathan Edelhuber, Marley Freeman, Christopher Hartmann, Jammie Holmes, Danielle Orchard, Woody de Othello, Hilary Pecis, Gideon Rubin, Lise Stoufflet, Nirit Takele, Ann Toebbe, and Guy Yanai, a group that includes three Israelis (Rubin, Takele and Yanai), and the rest from abroad.

This first group of Nassima-Landau artists are all known as figurative painters, pushing the boundaries of what figurative art means in 2020, with works that rethink and consider historical subjects, current events and comics as sources of imagery and inspiration.

“I’m not looking at nationalities,” said Nassima. “I want to add something to this environment, to the Israeli art world.”

Most of the works included in “High Voltage” were created especially for the show. Included are American artist Anne Toebbe’s careful, detailed portraits of home interiors, with a feel of a dollhouse, made with gouache, paper collage and pencil and French painter Lise Stoufflet’s dreamy navy blue landscapes and imagery.

‘Maysha’s Flowers, 2020’, acrylic on canvas by Hilary Pecis (b. 1979, Fullerton, California), part of the ‘High Voltage’ exhibit at new art space Nassima-Landau (Courtesy Nassima-Landau)

Israeli artist Gideon Rubin offers romantic portraits, showing the back of a woman in a red blouse, while American painter Hilary Pecis offers paintings that are colorful snapshots and still lifes of contemporary life.

Israeli artist Nirit Takele, born in Ethiopia, has a striking portrait of a long-limbed athlete, titled “Boy with Three Stripes.”

It’s an exhibit that offers a glimpse of how the world has changed for figurative artists, with their thick layers of pigments, and the cultural, geographical references that create narratives that are open to interpretation.

The emphasis here is on international art, bringing works of younger, lesser-known artists from abroad to hang next to artworks by Israeli artists.

Israeli artist Nirit Takele’s (b. 1985, Kunzila, Ethiopia) work, ‘Boy with Three Stripes, 2020,’ acrylic on canvas; part of the ‘High Voltage’ show at Nassima-Landau (Courtesy Nassima-Landau)

“International art has to be present all the time in Israel,” said Landau. “Some people can go abroad but not everyone; you need this here all the time.”

Nassima, a businessman who began collecting art at 21, spends most of the year in Israel. He discovered the location for Nassima-Landau across the street from his Tel Aviv home, in what was originally a dilapidated commercial space.

“We’re all going through this crazy pandemic, the economic situation is not fantastic, and this was a way to do something fresh and appealing, showcasing only young, talented artists who haven’t yet really established themselves as superstars,” he said.

The idea of the nascent art space is to add to the existing art world in Israel, beyond the large and small museums and galleries, said Landau, who is the artistic director of the art space, working alongside Nassima, the founder.

“I always wanted to put Israeli art next to international art, because it pushes forward the Israeli art; we don’t want Israel to be provincial,” said Landau, who worked to do the same at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, after serving as head curator at the Israel Museum.

‘Culture Crowd, 2015’ by Henni Alftan (b. 1979, Helsinki, Finland), oil on canvas (Courtesy Nassima-Landau)

This first Nassima-Landau show is meant to push against the boundaries of what already exists in Israel, including the choice of a first show displaying figurative art, a form less seen in Israel over the last few years, where video art and photography have been much more prevalent, said Landau.

The art space will showcase newer artists, and will also act as a foundation that identifies and supports artists, with exhibitions, installations and events that offer financial support.

The limitations of the Israeli art world tend to push local collectors to buy artworks abroad, in London or New York, said Nassima. They don’t expect the same level of quality in Israel, or assume that it will cost double if it’s in Israel.

“Israelis only associate luxury and high-end items with what they find abroad,” said Nassima. “I want to change that in my particular niche. I want to bring that level of aesthetic to Israel. This is my answer to the coronavirus.”

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