Professor resigns over censorship of nude ‘justice minister’ painting

Student’s painting of naked woman resembling Ayelet Shaked causes commotion at Shenkar art school

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2016. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The head of a top art school resigned his position Monday in protest at the censoring of a painting by one of his students depicting a naked woman who bears a striking resemblance to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the Jewish Home party (Warning: Nudity).

However, Larry Abramson, head of the Multidisciplinary Art School at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, agreed to put his resignation on hold until later this week when a meeting is scheduled to review the contentious painting and the censorship applied to it.

The fuss over the artwork began last Thursday when the Shenkar college opened an exhibit of graduates’ work which included a painting by student Yam Amrani titled Sdinim – Hebrew for “Sheets.” The work shows a kneeling, naked woman whose face is noticeably similar to Shaked’s.

Although Amrani did not identify the justice minister as being the subject of the painting in the explanatory notes for the work, college president Yuli Tamir, a former government minister, telephoned Abramson and instructed him to remove the painting.

Yuli Tamir. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Yuli Tamir. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

In a Monday letter to his students, Abramson explained he had no choice but to resign after Tamir insisted he remove the work, Haaretz reported.

“In that telephone call, I gave my objection in principle to such censorship, both on the principle of freedom of expression for our students, and in the serious educational and public damage that will be caused to Shenkar and to the Multidisciplinary Art School due to this self-censorship,” Abramson wrote.

“She ordered me, under her authority as my manager, to carry out her instructions,” he added. “For me, that was a real blow to the very soul, an abomination in the sanctuary of art.”

According to Haaretz, Tamir said college administrators understood from Amrani that he intended for Shaked to be the subject of the painting.

In the end, although it was agreed that Amrani would cover the woman’s face in the painting with black tape to prevent association with Shaked and that the work would remain in the exhibit, Abramson nonetheless delivered his letter of resignation.

After a meeting with Tamir it was decided that Abramson would delay his resignation until after an emergency meeting to be held Wednesday at the exhibition hall in which college administrators, tutors, and students will participate.

Abramson said he will decide whether or not to withdraw his resignation after the meeting.

Tamir told Haaretz on Saturday that she thought the artwork was “a work of hurtful chauvinism and has nothing to do with politics. Had it been MK Zehava Galon or MK Haneen Zoabi, I would have made the same request,” she said, referring to the leader of the Meretz party and the member of the Joint (Arab) List faction.

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