A gust of wind slammed shut the outer door to my studio and jammed the tongue in the locking mechanism to stick out into its chamber in a way that seemed rather aggressively directed to me, personally. “So there – now what are you going to do?” asked my upstart of a door.
With a visitor due to arrive, I realized I could arrange entrance through the neighbor’s space who shares a common bathroom with my space, as unceremonious a welcome if ever one there was. Short on time till the meeting and with a repairman on the way, actually getting down and dirty did not seem particularly enticing. I realized not too much was going to happen at the easel today. Purposely unplugged in my work space, I turned to an actual pen and real notebook paper to address the long-brewing impressions I had of the President’s Conference.
No doubt this will be the last blog post you are likely to come across assessing the events of the conference for 2012 (the organizers are probably already sitting down to thrash out the one for 2013). The conference, which took place a good two weeks ago, started off at the top of my “must write about this” list only to slither down ever lower in the competition with real life challenges, which conspired to bump it off altogether. Having been handed the lemons, I was now going to take advantage of unexpected down time and get busy making blogpost- lemonade.
The events which ran over a three day period included an impressive roster of speakers across a host of fields, predictably with a strong emphasis on politics, economics, and Jewish community, but with more picanti items thrown into the mix, like the “Future of Sex,” with Dr. Ruth drawing in a young crowd. This year, apparently for the first time since the conference started 4 years ago, a panel discussion on Israeli culture was included, in the final session of discussions. Lucky for me, my esteemed colleague- bloggers managed to give this panel a miss, leading me to ponder: Where does culture rank as a subject of popular interest?
James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, moderated the panel with great flair. Starting with the sartorial, he has created a brand look that certainly sets him apart in dowdy, post-fashion Jerusalem – he is known for his impeccable suits and “no hair out of place” silver pompadour cut. Here, as a “suit” amongst the “talent,” in response to to ribbing from Joseph Cedar, he referred to his jarring lavender socks as a stroke of the unpredictable, an indulgence to his own creative side. Better known, though, for his accomplishments at the helm of the museum, he has achieved high visibility in fundraising and stewarding the museum’s recent three-year renovation and expansion.
The idea, according to Snyder, was to anchor the museum in the ancient world, but simultaneously focus on the contemporary in a “universal” museum, with an intentionally “wide net” cast. No small feat to achieve and people voted with their feet – Snyder noting that over a million visitors came within the first twelve months after the doors re-opened (OK, let’s be crass and call them what they are: ticket buyers; they didn’t pop in for beer and pitzuchim [nut or seed snacks]). Snyder attributes this success to being able to convey a distinct culture, while at the same time, “going global.”
Acknowledging that Israeli artists are enjoying high success internationally, he credits this with being part of the “perfect storm of the moment” – interest in new media intersecting with a natural local talent open to experimenting in technology, video, and the like. With a certain amazement, Snyder remarked that art from Israel has done very well as it has been absorbed in the rest of the world.
The participants were some of the cream of the Israeli arts scene, with international recognition under their belts at fairly young ages, all now in their forties. Joseph Cedar, film director of two Oscar- nominated movies for Best Foreign Language Film (“Beaufort” and “Footnote”); Etgar Keret , author, playwright and screenwriter, whose books include “Suddenly a Knock at the Door” (2010); sculptor, video and installation artist, Sigalit Landau, who represented Israel in the Venice Art Biennale 2011 and has works in MOMA and other high profile venues; and composer, popular concert and recording artist, Achinoam Nini –all of whom shared private observations and their personal takes on cultural issues. Representing the side of the movers and shakers in the art scene was Rivka Saker, Director of Sotheby’s Israel, who is active in cultural diplomacy, sending Israeli artists out into the world, as well as bringing prominent curators from abroad to Israel. The auditorium was filled beyond capacity, with many standing and sitting in the aisles. (A podcast of the panel may be viewed here.)
This blogpost was originally published on Times of Israel here or