Jan 05 2017

Tel Aviv Museum of Art appoints artist Doron Rabina as chief curator

by Katherine Volk

Doron Rabina, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s pick for chief curator, might be the right man for the job. Courtesy the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

The appointment of Doron Rabina as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s chief curator came as a surprise to many in Israel. According to Haaretz, the outspoken artist—known for his critical views on the right-wing agenda that is invading and suppressing the arts—will assume his new position in the coming months. The current director and chief curator, Suzanne Landau, will continue solely as director, splitting the duties of the two roles she has maintained since 2012. The decision comes more than seven months after the position was advertised externally, following an unsuccessful internal search among existing museum employees. Rabina was headhunted by the museum’s recruitment panel after no candidates were found following the application deadline on July 1, 2016.

Rabina is known for his curation, art and writing. Prominent in the Israeli art scene, he represented his country at the 26th São Paolo Biennale in 2004, and has been responsible for organizing large-scale exhibitions locally and abroad, such as the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2008 group exhibition “Eventually We’ll Die – Young Art in Israel of the 90s” that featured 59 artists, and the 2011 exhibition “Blowing On A Hairy Shoulder/Grief Hunters” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. In 2005 and 2006, he curated the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv, an annual group show of contemporary Israeli art. For eight years, Rabina served as chief curator for the gallery at Hamidrasha College of Art at Beit Berl; from 2009 onward, he directed the college for five years. Rabina resigned from this role to pursue his own art creation in 2014. A year before his resignation, Rabina set up an art and education center called Hayarkon 19 with financial backing from Midrasha.

In 2011, Rabina was one of some 380 artists to petition against Israeli culture minister Limor Livnat’s NIS 50,000 (USD 13,000) prize for artistic work that reflected Zionist values and history. Rabina and his cohorts claimed the prize was not a merit of artistic skill or quality, but recognition for those who conform to right-wing political requirements. One year later, Haaretz quoted Rabina as he expressed dismay of the stifling of critical reasoning in artistic study, he suggested a reason for this suppression: “In our time, art equals democracy.”

The unanticipated appointment of Rabina signifies the museum’s attempt to shift gears. The institution faced accusations of self-censorship last year, after a joint exhibition between Ai Weiwei and Israeli photographer Miki Kratsman was canceled in early February. The planned show included Ai’s work on refugees and Kratsman’s compilation of 3,000 portraits of Palestinians. As Rabina takes up his new position of chief curator at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, perhaps the Israeli art scene will regain confidence in the institution.

Katherine Volk is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.

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