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Rufina & Sarah in front of Tavares Strachan at Dvir Gallery

 Sarah & Rufina in front of artwork by Tavares Strachan at Dvir Gallery


When NY Times writer Clifford J. Levy called Tel-Aviv “the hip, kid brother of the momentous Jerusalem,” not only did it make us want to the meet the radder, younger sibling of the two cities, but also be introduced to its girlfriends.  Yeah, I guess you could say babes.

Sarah Peguine and Rufina Valsky are a formidable duo of art professionals with the axiomatic vice grip not only on the Tel-Aviv art scene, but of all things art in Israel, as well. In our interview, the girls share their reservoir of local knowledge with us and unravel the plural identity of a city’s art pulse, which is simultaneously multi-cultural, innovative, experimental and conflicted.

It’s not London. It’s not Rome. It’s not Paris and it’s definitely not New York. It’s Tel-Aviv and it’s a different type of hot sparkly ball of light.  Full interview here


Sarah & Rufina

Art Selfies by Sarah & Rufina

How you’re involved in the arts?

Sarah Peguine:  After four years working at Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv, I’m now concentrating exclusively on my blog OhSoArty as well as on its corresponding Tel Aviv Galleries facebook page, which are both art guides to the Israeli contemporary art scene.

Rufina Valsky: During the last year I have been living in Berlin, dividing my time between Berlin and Tel Aviv. After seven intensive years of professional engagement in both independent and institutional art projects in Tel Aviv and its surrounding scenes, and two years as a PR director for Ramat Gan city museums, I moved to Berlin where I work mainly as an art consultant in the international contemporary context. In addition, I have my blog, a weekly guide for galleries and exhibitions in the Russian and Hebrew language 


Why should Tel Aviv be on everyone’s radar as a burgeoning art capital?

RVV: Art brings aspects of the place, the place brings aspects of the art of the place. The place is interesting, so therefore its art also is, and vice versa. In the last decade, Tel Aviv began to be fully recognized in the global art scene map, and it adds a unique range of sensibilities that can only be practiced due to the fact that it’s a periphery, which identifies itself in relation to the cultural centers of the Western world.


Is it safe to assume that Tel Aviv is the center of the Israel’s contemporary art scene?

SP: It’s true that Tel Aviv is its center, a hub to the Israeli contemporary art scene, where the majority of artists work and where gallerists choose to establish their venues. But, there are also important institutions outside of Tel Aviv. It’s the case for example with the most known art school in Israel, the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem. It’s also the case with museums situated in the suburbs of Tel Aviv such as the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, The Bat Yam Museum of Art, the Design Museum in Holon and with institutions in other parts of Israel like the Ein Harod Museum, which all regularly host important exhibitions.


Yanai Toister,"Untitled (from-Straits)" 2002

Yanai Toister,”Untitled (from-Straits)” 2002


What are some recent exhibitions that you loved?

SP: Recent shows include Yanai Toister’s exhibition “Blueprint” at the  Open Museum of Photography, Tel-Hai (North of Israel), Yohji Yamamoto at the Design Museum Holon, and the group show “About Stupidity” at the Petach Tikva Museum of Art, featuring renown artists from all over the world.  Of course, you can’t say that “you’ve seen it all” without going to the Israel Museum of Art in Jerusalem, which is a must, and in my opinion one of the most important museums in the world with its beautiful collection.


What role would you say Tel Aviv Museum of Art plays in the city’s art scene? 

SP: TAMA has always been a central art venue in Israel but in the past few years it’s been experiencing changes, resulting in positive advances and a revival. It has recently been renovated with a new wing, the “Herta and Paul Amir” building, designed by Preston Scott Cohen. The team has also changed with the appointing of Suzanne Landau (ex-Chief Curator at the Israel Museum) as its director and chief curator. These results can be seen in, for example the amazing survey exhibition “I am also… Douglas Gordon” curated by Ami Barak.


Herta and Paul Amir Building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art by Preston Scott Cohen, Inc. - Photo: Amit Geron

Herta and Paul Amir Building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – photo: Amit Geron

What are the exciting galleries people should never leave Tel Aviv without visiting?

RVV: Givon gallery, Dvir gallery, Sommer gallery. There are a lot of younger galleries, such as Tempo Rubato, a small upcoming gallery with interesting program. There is also the CCA Tel Aviv, a very good public art space, and I should point out the galleries of the city’s art academies.


Chelsea is the hub for galleries in NYC. Does Tel Aviv have a similar neighborhood littered with galleries?

SP: There are a few “key” areas for galleries in Tel Aviv: The beautiful Rothschild Boulevard and its surrounding neighborhood boasts great galleries like Sommer Gallery, Alon Segev Gallery (they represent Guy Yanai and I’m a big fan,) Noga Gallery, and Chelouche Gallery. The area around Gordon street in the northern part of Tel Aviv is another spot to find great galleries like Gordon Gallery (as well as its new space Gordon2) and Givon Gallery.

Rothschild Boulevard - photo: Ronsho

Rothschild Boulevard – photo: Ronsho


Ariel Schlesinger's solo exhibition at Dvir Gallery

Ariel Schlesinger’s solo exhibition at Dvir Gallery 

The arts spreading anywhere else around the city?

SP: In recent years there’s what can be called a drastic move to Jaffa and the south of Tel Aviv, which is famous for its cheaper rent, larger spaces (more industrial and rough,) and “bohemian” neighborhoods. There, you can find additional interesting art spaces and galleries such as the Shpilman Institute for Photography, Dvir Gallery’s second space and young and fresh galleries such as Ziz art space and Tempo Rubato Gallery.


What are you most excited about these days?

SP: Definitely the Douglas Gordon show at the Tel Aviv Museum. It’s unique in the fact that it’s both monumental with major pieces, a very large exhibition where the visitors need to invest time to understand all the pieces, but at the same time it’s autobiographical and intimate. It’s also exciting because it’s an example of the way an art event today can drive so many international visitors from the art world to Tel Aviv, highlighting the importance of this city in today’s global contemporary art scene.


Yael Bartana, “Untitled” (Andromeda’s Rock) 2006


What voice does Tel Aviv bring to the rest of the art world? 

RVV: There’s the Jewish thing that cannot be easily ignored, but there’s also multi-culturalism. There’s a strong sense of fluidity, both because of the natural border of the sea, but also because of the conflicts that define life in Israel. I like it that when people make art in Tel Aviv because people make it in artistic context that has no canonized tradition, which contemporary artists can either fight against or cherish. In Tel Aviv, it’s possible to change and choose your tradition each time anew.


How much of Israel’s intense political climate influence its artists and their work?

SP: It’s a difficult but recurring question. I can compare it to the issue of the “female artists;” artists who are women or similarly, artists who are Israeli don’t necessarily talk in their art about the experience of being a woman or the experience of living in Israel’s complex political situation. But of course, many Israeli artists or artists visiting Israel do approach this subject in their art.


Anyone in particular?

SP: To name a few: Yael Bartana, Dor Guez, Pavel Wolberg, Sigalit Landau, Michal Heiman and many more. A recent example of a show that deals with the intense political climate here is Nira Pereg’s and her excellent exhibit “All Of This Can Be Reconstructed Elsewhere,” currently on view at the Contemporary Art Center (CCA).


Nira Pereg’s solo exhibition “All This Can Be Reconstructed Elsewhere”

Haim Elmoznino's "Chair" at Sommer-Gallery

Haim Elmoznino’s “Chairman” 2006, at Sommer Gallery


What emerging Israeli artists should we all be on the lookout for?

VV: Haim Elmoznino and Adam Rabinowitz. The first works in TLV and the second in L.A., and both use immaterial materials such as light and space in various special ways. Noa Glazer, which I recently saw in one show and now I’m interested to see where will she go from there. Oren Pinhassi, whom I follow since his graduation when he started to show architectonic grave-like structures, Andrey Lev and Ariel Schlesinger, who lives and works Berlin.


What do you think of star artists like Keren Cytter, Mika Rottenberg, and Tamy Ben-Tor? 

SP: I’m not a big fan of the word “Star” when it comes to art. What makes an artist a star? The number of shows, sales, press, the gallery which represents him/he or international acclaim? It depends on so many factors and at the end of the day art is subjective, it is about personal taste and the baggage we come with.


Adam Rabinowitz "Untitled" 2013

Adam Rabinowitz “Untitled” 2013


Did I miss any big-time Iraeli artists?

If I had to add my “star” to this list,  I would mention Ariel Schlesinger. Rufina and I had a few discussions about him and I completely agree with her that he is a great artist. She mentioned him in the question on emerging artists and I do so for your “stars” question. That’s what so special about him, he is young, innovative and experimental and at the same time he is starting to get a lot of important, international attention. Schlesinger is currently showing his solo exhibition at Dvir Gallery, which has been representing him since his beginnings. He has also started working recently with Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris.


Ariel Schlesinger, "Oil Lamp" 2009

Ariel Schlesinger “Oil Lamp” 2009


To what extent has Tel Aviv’s art fair contributed to the city’s rising reputation as an art tour de force? Exciting for this May’s Fresh Paint?

RVV: I think the Tel Aviv art fair did bring more attention to the art life of the city. When you speak about Tel Avivian art events you have to also mention ArtTLV (Tel Aviv Biennale) and Artis, an independent nonprofit organization that broadens awareness and understanding of contemporary art from Israel.


I’ll be in Tel Aviv soon, for about a day, which isn’t very long. Run me through an ideal 24 hours in Tel Aviv?

RVV: Staying in the beautiful Hilton 1960′s brutalism building by architect Yaakov Rechter. Then, number of hours on the beach and then Jaffa, followed by visits to Givon Gallery on Gordon Street, Dvir Gallery and Sommer Gallery. The architectural environment these galleries are part of, represents a progressive moment in modernist architecture, which gives it another layer of experience. Regardless of anything, the day should end in Lucifer bar, hidden in a building in front of the big 1920′s expressionist synagogue on Allenby street.



Check out Sarah’s website & Facebook page for plenty of tips and guides to the Israeli contemporary art scene. She’s also  on Twitter and Instagram @ohsoarty

Rufina recently moved to Berlin and runs, a weekly guide for galleries and exhibitions, which you should take a gander at, especially if you’re fluent in Hebrew or Russian. You can also find  her on Instagram @meandallmyshoes


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