Ofer Levin GTI Investments: "Landscapes of War and of Security Tension are an Inseparable Part of the Levin Collection"

In collaboration with Ofer Levin GTI Investments

6 min read
Ludwig Bloom | Forbidden-Ground by the Monastery of Notre Dame, Jerusalem
The Levin CollectionLudwig Bloom | Forbidden-Ground by the Monastery of Notre Dame, Jerusalem

Wars and security tensions were never absent

The last round of fighting between the terrorist organizations in Gaza and Israel reminded us once again of the complex reality in the Middle East. This reality has been expressed in different ways in local art since the establishment of the State of Israel. One of the most comprehensive Israeli art collections in the world, which includes such expressions of wars and security tensions, is the Levin Collection which was gathered for 40 years by the art curator and critic, Gideon Ofrat. Over a decade ago it was purchased by Ofer Levin, the financial strategist of GTI Investments, and ever since the collection has been expanding and attracting art experts and enthusiasts from all over the world.

“Wars and security tensions were never absent, not from the canvas of Israeli artists nor from their camera lens. One of the prominent artists who depicted landscapes of war,” claims Gideon Ofrat, “was Ludwig Blum who was born in the last decade of the 19th century and resided in Vienna, Austria, during the years of his artistic development. In the 1920s he immigrated to the Land of Israel, )which was still under the British Mandate( and he decided to live here until his death in 1974.”

“Blum’s entire oeuvre includes a few thousand paintings of which the most known are landscapes, especially of Jerusalem and its surroundings. Nonetheless, Blum also painted landscapes of war in 1948. The scenes do not depict battles as such but their aftermath. Places to which the artist seems to have just arrived: a lookout in a bombed Jerusalem building, ruins of buildings in Kibbutz Negba and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and landscapes of destruction. Marcel Janco (1895 – 1984), who was a member of the ‘New Horizons’ movement, painted mostly houses and Arab villages that had been destroyed by war. Blum’s war ruins, on the other hand, were those belonging to Jews or Christian institutions in Jerusalem. Both shared none of the guilt that seeped into the ruin paintings and stories represented by young Israeli artists.” “Ludwig Blum,” added Ofer Levin GTI “was a talented and diverse artist of landscapes, portraits and prominent events related to the establishment of the State of Israel. However, over the years Blum’s presence in the Israeli art world was on the wane. His solo exhibitions until the end of the 1980s were solely related to institutional frameworks connected to 1948. His ‘resurrection’ reached its peak when the former city mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, inaugurated Ludwig Blum Street in Motza neighborhood, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. I was very pleased to have the honor to add Blum’s paintings and drawings from the War of Independence to the Collection I own.”

First signs of the end of the naivety period of the “Eretz-Israeli” Zionism and of the process of waning and fracturing of the Zionist dream in Israeli art began to appear during the 1950s. The photographer Micha Bar-Am who documented since his book “Across Sinai” (in collaboration with Azaria Alon, 1957) the Israeli wars and after 1967 the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exposed, according to Ofrat, the human response to the battle, as well as his own interpretation.

“The watershed of Israeli art is naturally 1967,” explains Ofrat “and since then the artistic utterances reflecting the other side of the pendulum intensify. A harsh expression could be found, for example, in the language of documentary photography of Moshe Gershuni. The rise of the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories following the 1977 political changeover under the auspices of Ariel Sharon as Minister of Agriculture, led to radicalization in Gershuni’s photographic expressions, reaching their peak in his 1979 work. The work contains an appropriation of a press photograph, on which a man who resembles Arik Sharon is shooting wildly from a driving truck. Gershuni marked reddening skies and what seems to be a setting sun in red glass paint. He then added the inscription: ‘Arik Sharon and the Indians’. In the same year, he wrote on the walls of one of Tel Aviv’s galleries ‘Who’s a Zionist and who isn’t’, symbolizing the polarization in Israeli society char

The Levin Collection
The Levin CollectionMoshe Gershuni - Arik Sharon and the Indians

A different artist in the Levin collection who artistically expressed a security reality that is closer to today’s reality is David Reeb. Reeb dedicated most of his paintings to the Palestinian resistance in the Occupied Territories juxtaposed with life in Tel Aviv. However, in this work (“Bombed Kibbutz”) which consists of four groups of images, two of the four groups of images represent a kibbutz idyll: one features work in the fields, a chicken coop, and more. Another group portrays children’s life on the kibbutz. In one of the four compositions, one can identify munition shells flying through a red sky. Two other groups feature bombings, red paint, death, and destruction.   

“Reeb’s Primitivist figuration,” explains Ofrat “whose early phase owed something both to the American artist David Salle and to the American graffiti artist Keith Haring, was expanded and enriched. The four groups of four paintings each form a structure resembling an X – paintings of a bombing vs paintings portraying an idyll - that is intended to cause viewers to reflect on ‘the Israeli condition’”.  

“The Levin collection is in fact a rich, colorful and magnificent mosaic of the State of Israel and the Israeli society from the beginning of Zionism through the immigration waves, the settlement, the views of the city and the countryside, its Arabic and Jewish dwellers, the country’s landscapes, and especially Jerusalem. And yes, landscapes of war and of security tension are an inseparable part of the country and the collection,” concludes Ofer Levin.

The Levin Collection
The Levin CollectionDavid Reeb | Bombed Kibbutz


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