Brought out from storage to the limelight, a chronological presentation of selected works from the permanent collection of Israeli art is now open to the public in three huge galleries in the new Herta and Paul Amir Building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Works from the turn of the twentieth century to cutting edge are divided into three sections: Collective Identities (1906-1960); Private Identities (1960-1990); and Glocalism (1990-2011)
Collective Identities refers to art created in the Jewish community in Palestine from the beginning of the 20th century until the establishment of the State of Israel and beyond, which was largely shaped by the tension underlying the quest for collective identities. It was a sequence of double moves which brought together identification with contemporaneous artistic movements and adherence to ideologies of collective identity. Thus, for example, the ideological aspiration for the renewal of a biblical Judaism teamed with Orientalism and Art Nouveau (the Bezalel period), and dreams of localism and assimilation in the Eretz-Israeli space joined archaism and modernist primitivism (1920s paintings and Canaanite art); anxieties and identification with the plights of European Jewry joined Jewish symbolism and expressionism, and the realization of the vision of modern political revival teamed with the inclination toward universal abstraction (New Horizons). The two aspects of this process were marked by identification with a political and artistic Eurocentric culture which declined in the aftermath of World War II, but was gradually replaced, from the late 1960s on, by an American orientation.
Private Identities begin in the 1950s, following the establishment of the State of Israel, and more conspicuously since the 1960s. As the country took form, the ideological tension at the core of the quests for shared identities decreased. The number of Israeli artists doubled and more, and their ethnic, social, economic, and political stratification likewise increased. Under the auspices of the State's unifying frame, and in light of the new conditions of relative openness to Europe and subsequently to the United States, the country's citizens could express other, private and sector-based identities. This process extended for more than 30 years, until the 1990s. The engagement with the private identity gradually expanded to include the familial identity, sexual identity (primarily heterosexuality and laterhomosexuality), female identity, ethnic and social identity (of offspring of immigrants from the Arab countries and the Communist bloc countries, or that of the second generation of Holocaust survivors), and national Palestinian identity. The latter emerged not as a single collective identity, but as an expression of the national identity of individuals: Christian, Druze, and Muslim artists.
Glocalism is a dual term, referring to Globalism and Localism. In the 1990s, the stratification and diversification of the local art milieu continued with greater force, alongside a politics of identities and a growing recognition of the power structures underlying the art world and its relations with the reality in which it operates. It was the outcome of an initial interaction between Israeli art and academic theories, post-modern in this case. The last two decades in Israeli art may be regarded through the perspective of the globalization process which was catalyzed by the fall of the USSR, the "triumph" of capitalism, and the expansion of the Internet. The State of Israel of the 1990s onward is marked by the total victory of the market economy and consumerist culture, cable television and the commercial channels, the prosperity of shopping malls on the city outskirts, the speedy enrichment of a few, and the erosion in the economic status of the middle and lower classes.
The past two decades, however, have also seen a counter-inclination, whose origins may be traced to 1980s Japan. It indicates the growing desire in the current decade, in Israel too, to balance and curb the tendencies of globalization out of a perspective which takes into account the global and the local at the same time. This linguistic hybrid was preceded, in the previous decade, by the slogan "think globally, act locally." These ideas, alongside direct anti-global movements, exert their influence on Israeli art too. Just as glocalism represents the tension between two spatial poles, "melanchotopia" articulates the tension between two temporal poles: past and future. It combines the melancholic, nostalgic sentiment with the utopian impulse, and is likewise represented in Israeli art of the current decade.