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The Israeli Design Scene

Curators and creators

Tel Aviv-based curators and creators Anat Safran and Tal Erez work with Israel's renowned institutions to produce exhibitions and cultural events across the country.

In this interview, they shared a glimpse into artsy Israel especially into the famous Pechakucha Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem Design Week.

BY JW Staff / Photography by Dor Kedmi

image: Tal Erez and Anat Safran

Anat Safran is the creator and artistic director of PechaKucha Tel Aviv, one of Tel Aviv's leading events for art and culture, and the "Rafsoda" Project, a transient pop-up shop started in 2011 showcasing the innovative work of young Israeli designers, with permanent locations in Paris and Tokyo.

Graduated at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg, Safran is a member of the Arts Council of the Israel State Lottery and co-curated the Design Museum of Holon, Sound Waves exhibition.

Tal Erez holds degrees from the Holon Institute of Technology and Design Academy Eindhoven. As a designer, researcher, and curator, his work explores issues such as political change, institutional critique, and contemporary forms of resistance.

His studio "Design Related", has exhibited internationally with the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Droog Design, Belgium's Z33 - House For Contemporary Art, and with La Terrasse, among others. He additionally teaches at the Bezalel Academy of Art's design masters program.

A research fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut, also co-founded the "24/7" research unit Bezalel's School of Architecture.

From renowned Academies in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, producing waves of fresh talent, world-class museums hosting global stars, to contemporary art galleries showcasing at international fairs in Europe and the United States, the world is finally catching on to Israel's vibrant art and design scene.

In this article, Anat and Tal discuss Israel's global significance in the world of art and design, the differences between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem's scene, and what lies ahead in the ever innovating Israeli sphere.


JW: How does Jerusalem's design-art scene compare to Tel Aviv's?

Anat: Jerusalem has a rich history that Tel Aviv doesn't have, and it filters through all aspects of living and creating in the city.

It continually confronts you, as a creator, with its past, present, and future, and envelops you with an exceptional and unique atmosphere.

Tal: Jerusalem is unique, both in its socio-cultural background and in its immense support for culture. It creates a very rare setting, not just in Israel, but in the world, which allows the creation of publicly funded, high-level projects that focus on questions that the commercial scene, more relevant in Tel Aviv, cannot.

JW: What was your latest work?

Anat: This summer's Jerusalem Design Week 2018 brought the design world to Israel with exhibitions, performances, lm screenings, and installations from more than 100 Israeli and international designers.

Tal: The week's events took place at Hansen House, a former Ottoman leper hospital transformed into Jerusalem's leading contemporary art space, the historic Bezeq building, The Jerusalem Theatre, and Alliance House, culturally funded by The Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, The Jerusalem Development Authority and Ran Wolf Urban Planning and Project Management.

Under Anat's direction as the Artistic Director and myself as Chief Curator, the 2018 curatorial theme of Conserve prompted designers and artists to examine the global concepts of conservation and conservatism through society's prisms and culture and the role design plays therein.

“Future Rooms” Exhibition at Jerusalem Design Week 2018

JW: Which areas of design interest you the most? What themes do you enjoy exploring in exhibitions?

Anat: I am very interested in design events that are part of a larger context on the border between disciplines: between design and science, technology, arts, etc. I particularly like it when definitions are blurred, and design serves as an intriguing critical tool that pushes the viewer to raise questions, thoughts, and feelings about our world.

Tal: I am always interested in the social relations of design and the design's unique ability to communicate them on the intellectual level and the experiential level. I like to see projects, not necessarily "exhibitions," since this term widens the range and breaks the formats of what can and cannot be done.

JW: What tempted you to take on Artistic Director + Chief Curator of Jerusalem Design Week roles?

Tal and Anat: We are both independent curators and creators working on various design projects such as the Sound Exhibition at the Holon Design Museum, The Venice Architecture Biennale and PechaKucha night in Tel Aviv, amongst others. We both joined the JDW team in 2016, intending to create a critical design event both for the local and international community.

JW: How does Jerusalem's design scene t into the larger, international design world?

Anat: Jerusalem has the most significant concentration of art and design students in the country and has a lively scene of designers and craftsmen. As a city with an incredible history and various communities, we consider it a living lab of social, political, and cultural conflicts. This particular situation proposes a very fertile ground for profound research and creativity with a distinct identity and energy.

JW: How has Hansen House invigorated and added to the Jerusalem design and art scene?

Anat: The JDW is an initiative of the Hansen House, an active cultural center that works all year round but sees the JDW as its major yearly event.

With the Conserve theme, the location and the content were exceptionally well suited, since the house is a building under strict conservation rules and has an incredible history. The space, the garden, and the place's unique atmosphere have a significant role in the event's success. In the last few years, Hansen House has gained recognition as one of the most important and exciting cultural centers for Israel design.

JW: How did you come up with the theme Conserve for this year's Jerusalem Design Week?

Tal: Every year, we are looking for a contemporary theme specifically relevant to Jerusalem and Israel and has global significance.

Looking at the rapid technological and geo-political changes globally, we have noticed a global movement towards conservation and conservatism and thought this could be an interesting issue to deal with through a design prism.

JW: This being the 7th year the event has taken place, what set this year's design week apart from previous design weeks?

Anat: Starting from 2016, the JDW has switched into a larger scale and international event. Every year it grows both in the level of the projects as well as the number of visitors. We need to make the JDW a platform for new creativity, and we are happy to say that this year 80% of the projects were new and were created for the design week. We had 130 designers participating, around 30 were international designers. We feel that we succeed in making this event tighter in its content and shaping its unique identity every year.

JW: In your opinion, what has been the most impactful exhibition to the public?

Tal: It's tough to say since we had many different exhibitions and events, which created a substantial experience. The Pro-Jerusalem Society was particularly strong in its message since it revealed an unknown history to the public. The organization was established 100 years ago to plan the city on all levels.

We still live by the design rules and insights that the Pro-Jerusalem Society created.

Not many people were aware of its existence before the exhibition. It also proposed actual and future visions of the city of Jerusalem by contemporary designers.

JW: Several exhibitions were created by a local designer paired with an international artist. Can you speak more on how their different creative processes played out?

Anat: The second year, we conducted the international teams' project, where five Israeli designers teamed with five other international designers. They were given a theme, a budget, and commission them to create a new installation. After a one week residency in Jerusalem, where all the teams met and worked, they developed their project, communicating through Skype and emails. We were thrilled with the results, knowing that there are many risks in such a project. The team's members created great connections and managed to collaborate and create five significant installations.

JW: Which upcoming exhibitions will you be producing or are involved soon after?

Anat: There is always another PechaKucha event coming up in Tel Aviv. In November, we have the second part of our collaboration with the Forum de Design in Paris, a partnership we have started this year at the JDW under the Saison France-Israël 2018. Later in the year, there are a few exciting new projects with some great partners in the early stages.