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Tel Aviv’s Gordon Gallery brings contemporary art to an unlikely corner of Jerusalem

Branching into the capital, the historic art house has opened a light and airy space in the Givat Shaul industrial zone, looking for different kinds of neighbors and possibilities

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

  • Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
    Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
  • Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
    Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
  • Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021, with a Ron Arad 'crushed car' sculpture on the wall (Courtesy PR)
    Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021, with a Ron Arad 'crushed car' sculpture on the wall (Courtesy PR)
  • Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
    Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
  • Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
    Tel Aviv's historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)

Beit Sapir, a minimalist industrial building in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood, is either the strangest spot for a contemporary art gallery, or the best possible place for one.

But even if the decision to open a branch of Tel Aviv’s famed Gordon Gallery in one of Jerusalem’s less artsy corners was a gamble, gallery owner Amon Yariv insists that bringing the space to the capital was a no-brainer.

“There’s 800,000 people in Jerusalem, I only need about 800 clients,” said Yariv, who officially opened the gallery on Wednesday. “You’ve got the [Israel] museum here, I have one of my major artists here, Pesach Ben Zvi, and he’s having a solo show there next year.”

Gordon Gallery, first opened by Yariv’s father Yeshayahu Yariv in 1966 on Tel Aviv’s Gordon Street, has long been an address for many of Israel’s top artists and collectors.

Change has always been part of the business. In the 1970s, the Yarivs established the country’s first auction house, which played a major role in the development of the Israeli art market.

Amon Yariv stopped holding auctions in 2001 and turned the gallery’s attention to representing and promoting contemporary artists and expanding the gallery’s collection.

They added additional gallery space with a move from Gordon Street to Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Hamelacha, then a rough-around-the-edges industrial area, and added a sculpture garden as well in recent years.

Amon Yariv, the owner of Tel Aviv’s Gordon Gallery, whose new Jerusalem location in an unexpected industrial zone opened December 22, 2021 (Courtesy Gordon Gallery)

Adding a space in Jerusalem was something Amon Yariv has thought about for years, having become more familiar with the city when he first attended Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design twenty years ago, where he studied photography and lived near the Mahane Yehuda market.

“We thought that it’s an interesting experiment and a way to expand our program,” he said. “All the Jerusalemites told us we’re nuts.”

Still, the choice of Givat Shaul for his gallery is not a natural one. The neighborhood, far west of the city center, is a warren of offices and light industry, dotted with big box stores, discount warehouses, publishing houses and mechanic shops, and sandwiched by ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox residential neighborhoods.

There are some artist studios there as well, along with Bezalel’s ultra-Orthodox branch, Oman, which is located next door to the new gallery.

The new gallery’s neighbors were among attendees at the opening of the 250-square-meter (2,700-square-foot) gallery Wednesday night, where solo exhibitions by Israeli artists Ofer Lellouche and Aviva Uri were being shown.

One room of the large white space was dedicated to Uri’s black and white drawings, expressed in thick strokes with little color.

The other room is centered on Lellouche’s bronze sculpture, “The Hug,” and surrounded by nine small clay reliefs on the walls, depicting different aspects and sides of the sculpting process.

Ofer Lellouche’s bronze sculpture, ‘The Hug,’ stands in the center of one of the two solo shows at the Gordon Gallery’s new location in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul industrial zone, which opened December 22, 2021 (Courtesy PR)

Yariv said he recently bought the Uri works from a collector, while the Lellouche pieces were freshly cast in the artist’s workshop.

From the outside, the low-slung Sapir Center is wrapped by three levels of outdoor walkways and a jumble of doors, signs and air conditioning units overlooking a crowded parking lot.

But inside, the gallery is spacious, light and airy. Gone are the thick cement walls and small windows that characterize most of the spaces in the building.

Yariv commissioned Salty Architects to spearhead the renovation, removing the industrial façade and replacing it with large windows, offering glimpses and views of the industrial ambience that still exists right outside.

Visitors are welcome everywhere in the space, including the two front galleries, the inviting art book library housed on white shelving that stretches to the ceiling, as well as the back section, where other artworks are available to browse, in addition to the massive, eye-catching Ron Arad crushed car piece hanging on the wall behind a desk.

Tel Aviv’s historic Gordon Gallery opened its new location in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul industrial zone on December 22, 2021, with a Ron Arad ‘crushed car’ sculpture on the wall (Courtesy PR)

“Everything that is here will be different than in Tel Aviv, it’s a way to experiment and expand,” said Yariv. “I’m going to show some new artists, maybe some Jerusalem artists, but not as a statement, it’s about showing the best art in Israel that I can show, and to be able to work with them over time.”

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