Family photos aren't normally the stuff of exhibits, but this is not just any family. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem's mayor from 1965-1993, was the international icon of Jerusalem. During the post-1967 years of his tenure, Teddy Kollek and Jerusalem were inextricably connected throughout the world; the name and the place were almost synonymous: Jerusalem was Teddy, Teddy was Jerusalem.
On the occasion of the centenary of his birth in Hungary, painter Osnat Kollek-Sachs, his daughter, and stills photographer Osnat Shalev-Kollek, his daughter-in-law, combine their talents and memories in homage to the great man in the exhibit "At Home with Teddy" at the Jerusalem Cinemateque.
The Cinemateque is a most appropriate venue for an exhibit on Kollek. Housed in a building which seems to hang from the western cliff of the Hinnom Valley (once the location of ancient pagan rituals) it overlooks the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, the pastoral slopes of goat paths and olive trees which lead gently downwards to the origin of Jerusalem, the City of David, and present-day Silwan. The building itself stands on the seam between the east and west sides of the city, and Mayor Kollek, who was at the helm during the historic juncture which re-joined them into one city, was reputed to be a bridge-builder between those worlds.
During my own first days in Jerusalem, the fledgling Cinemateque was housed in a shabby auditorium off the lobby of the Agron House, a center for journalists in the city center. The Jerusalem Foundation, a Kollek initiative, funded the Cinematheque project which helped bring Lia Van Leer's dream into reality in its present comfortable quarters. Now, with the Jerusalem Film Festival at its height, the exhibit space during intermission is so packed with film fans that it is hardly approachable, but it is well worth waiting out the crowds to view it during screenings when they disperse.
Centering on the last decade of his life, the paintings and the photographs both approach the man, who in his earlier years seemed to be larger than life, with an intimacy that one can only gain from observation within the innermost circles of family life.
Kollek-Sachs, in her paintings, seems to rely on photography as one would a sketch - to trigger the memory of what is seen. Today, painters commonly use photography as a tool to aid them in bringing about their paintings. In my opinion, her more successful works are those where the photos serve as a take-off point for her paintings, rather than as a means to reproduce the moment.
|Osnat Kollek-Sachs, oil painting, 1999|
In the progression of paintings, we see Kollek morphing from the intimidating man behind his desk with his ever-present cigarette, to more and more simplified forms, as if we are watching him become a ghost image of himself.
Shalev-Kollek's stills-photography also show us Kollek as he becomes an ever frailer, mellower presence in his fading years. We see him with Amos, his film director son, at Kibbutz Ein Gev, where Kollek was a founding member, we see the granddaughters goofing-off with granddad's walker, we see a father-daughter portrait, and many other quiet moments. Amongst the most touching is Kollek, who was raised in Vienna, kissing his granddaughter's hand, retaining even so late in his life the instincts of the charmer.
A number of photos taken during the funeral of Kollek close the exhibit. Current President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and singer Shuli Natan are visibly shaken. (Kollek had asked composer Naomi Shemer to compose a song about Jerusalem and "Jerusalem of Gold" came out with then-unkown Natan performing it at the 1967 Israel Music Festival.) The photo of Israel Museum Director James Snyder seen contemplating a portrait of Kollek, reminds us that building the Israel Museum was another of Kollek's achievements. Tamar, Kollek's widow, fragile in her mourning clothes, is seen in profile during the shiva (mourning) week.
It is a perennial question for creators whether or not it is a betrayal of the privacy of their closest friends and relations to make use of material gleaned from their private lives as the basis upon which to pursue their art. Common to writers as well, are our most intimate and private moments fair game as source material?