"Re-collection" Nevet Yitzhak at the Wilfrid Israel Museum for Asian Art and Studies

Nevet Yitzhak’s modus operandi deviates from the usual relationship between an artist and a museum, which the former regards as a space in which to exhibit his artwork. Her work in recent years, especially in new media and installation, explores the cultural perceptions and values that shape the crystallization of museum collections and their role as agents of memory. In the exhibition, which extends through three halls, Yitzhak examines the relations between collection and collector, constructing a new exegetic space which combines historical and fictional elements.

Wilfrid Israel, who lived in Berlin in the interwar period, was an art lover, an intellectual, an amateur sculptor, and a pacifist, who inherited the management of a thriving commercial business from his father. In 1924 he traveled to the Near and Far East, and on his return from his travels he joined a group of young socialists, who immigrated to Palestine and in 1936 established Kibbutz Hazorea. During the war, Israel engaged in covert operations to rescue Jews, and during one of these operations, in 1943, he was killed when his plane was intercepted by the Germans. His fellow kibbutz members were surprised to receive his will, which called for a home in the kibbutz for his collection of Oriental art. In 1951, after lengthy discussions, the museum bearing his name was opened.

Yitzhak’s comprehensive research of the kibbutz archives, the collection storerooms, and Israel’s diaries raised more questions than it answered. The bulk of the collection was bombed in the Blitz, after it arrived in Britain from Germany. What do the surviving collection items tell about the person who chose them? How are his life, desires, and personal taste reflected in them? What led to his fascination with statuettes of Egyptian and Greek gods and ones of Buddha from Cambodia and India? Did the restraint and serenity on the figures’ faces help him cope with the upheavals of the period?

The exhibition “Re-collection” reassembles the original collection and brings it to light. It conjures the exhibits up from the darkness and oblivion, frees them from the conventional museum categories, operating in the intermediate realm between real and fictive. Transpiring in this mental twilight zone enables Yitzhak to expand and break prevalent thought patterns. Her action reinstates the collection with the subjective, eclectic, unexpected dimension.

The remaining exhibits are silent witnesses to the story of their survival despite the dangers and wars they have endured on their way to their permanent abode. These sculptures are juxtaposed with the only sculpture left from Israel’s own work—a self-portrait entitled Exhaustion. While his figure is indrawn and its head is cast down, the unwritten agreement between him and his collection is still valid. Wilfrid Israel gave the collection refuge from the ravages of time, and they in turn treasure his spirit and preserve his heritage.

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi, curator


Nevet Yitzhak ·