Curators: Joshua Simon and Chai Loren
The Bat Yam Scene focuses on the works of Chaim Kiewe (1912-1983) and Jacob Epstein (1921-2003). Kiewe was a painter and served as director of the Bat Yam Museum of Art (now the David Ben Ari Museum for Contemporary Art), while Epstein was a sculptor and amongst the founders of the Bat Yam Art Institute.. Through these two artists, the exhibition, which includes abstract paintings by Kiewe and busts by Epstein, delineates art circles that developed around the Bat Yam Museum of Art and the Bat Yam Art Institute.
The circumstances that brought these two artists to work in Bat Yam have to do with the momentum that Bat Yam gained in its transition from a local council to a municipality in 1958. The city’s first mayor, David Ben Ari (1907-1978), after whom the building is named, envisioned a center for cultural production in Bat Yam and worked to realize the idea with the establishment of the MoBY compound: the Bat Yam Art Institute, the Bat Yam Museum of Art and the Ryback House, and the invitation of Sholem Asch to reside in the city. Ben Ari was a fan of the arts, and alongside his efforts to obtain artworks for the museum’s collection, he donated his private art collection to the city – this historical body of works forms the basis for the MoBY collection.
From its very beginning, Israel’s finest artists studied and taught at the Bat Yam Art Institute. Among its founders were artist and educator Jacob Epstein, artists Arie Margoshilski, David Shore, Aba Fenichel, Aharon Alcalay, Shlomo Vitkin, Eliyahu Gat, Edwin Solomon, Henryk Hechtkopf, John Byle, Naftali Israel, and many more artists and intellectuals who took an active role at the institute. Today, the institute includes workshops as well as studios for painting, sculpture, print, photography and video. It offers various courses in the arts and is home to the New Gallery, which hosts exhibitions, cultural activities, artist talks and panel discussions.
MoBY–Museums of Bat Yam, which is comprised of three museums, operates within and between various territories – the Ramat Yosef neighborhood in the city of Bat Yam where it is located, the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, Israel, and the international art world. The museum offers a broad platform for the display of contemporary art as well as art education through its diverse activities in collaboration with various organizations within the city. The museum’s curatorial approach aims at enabling an exchange between artists, educators, writers, curators, critics, researchers and the general public by developing programs that are able to transform the museum into a thought provoking and ever changing site.
This approach originates from the Bat Yam scene, which is at the center of the exhibition. Kiewe was the museum’s director during the mid-1960s and worked for many years in a studio space in the water tower adjacent to the museum. Epstein has educated generations of artists in the city and worked in a studio on HaRav Uziel Street, not far from the museum. Both Kiewe and Epstein were part of an artistic milieu in which Bat Yam was an active and integral part.
In the exhibition The Bat Yam Scene, Kiewe’s works examine the layers of the painting surface. In his elegant and attractive style, Kiewe turns the canvas into a sort of screen on which vertical and horizontal images appear. Epstein, in his expeditious and tactile sculptures, portrays his circle of artist and curator friends with whom he worked and debated. The exhibition focuses on two artists whose works and biographies weave in links of artistic production based in the city of Bat Yam and the Bat Yam scene.