Where to see (and buy) art
The Negev Museum of Art (located in the former Ottoman Governor’s Mansion, the Saraya, originally built in 1906 in the Old City), was restored and renovated in 2004 and exhibits the works of Israeli artists and occasionally has guest lectures by prominent artists – 08-6282056, http://www.negev-museum.org.il. It was cited by CNN as one of the 10 best Israeli museums. The adjacent Great Mosque of Be’er-Sheva (built in 1897), now serves as a Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Cultures and displays relevant exhibits.
Other local art and other exhibits are regularly held at: City Hall; “Yad la-Banim;” the Public Library; the Histadrut Building; the Greenberg Teachers’ Center, and at “Be’er-Tseva” in the Yud-Aleph Community Center, as well as at a growing number of art galleries such as: the Trumpelor Gallery; or at the home of photographer Dani Machlis; at Shimont [Pivko Sarussi]‘s Art-Design at 39 he-Haluts St.; at the Gershon 6 Gallery; or at the “Ela and Oleg” Gallery located at 12 Mish’ol Giv’on St. in Tet neighborhood. In 2020, during the Corona pandemic, Beershevan sculptor, Daniel Toledano (b. 1961-) opened Gallery 44 at 44 Hativat ha-Negev St. in the Old City, while also developing a new boutique hotel on he-Haluts St., in lieu of the abandoned old “Water Institute” building. Another free gallery, open to the public, is the Negev Hotel Gallery, located at 26 ha-Atsma’ut St., in the Old City. x
Another municipal art project entitled: “Old City walls – street gallery” consists of murals painted by 7 young artists on various walls of buildings located around the Old City. These artists are: Galina Nekrasova, Asya Keinan, Tefet Avrahami, Yulia Eisenberg, Daria Davidov, Shimon Sarusi & Tsipi Zohar. For example, one mural painted by Nekrasova is entitled: “Yesterday, today & tomorrow” on a building on ha-Atsma’ut St.
The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Marcus Family Campus has a number of galleries with various types of exhibits (some permanent & some changing) in several buildings: the Senate Building lobby; the Aranne Library lobby and stairwell; and the Faculty of Health Sciences, and more. Curator, Prof. Maor -050-2056044. There are also sculptures on the grounds (and suspended above ground), Such as the sculpture by Ofra Zimbalista (1939-2014) – “The Choir.” Both the SCE and Kaye colleges also have regular exhibits.
Most Fridays, along the “Midrehov” (the pedestrian walkway) on KKL St., down the center of the Old City, there is an arts-&-crafts fair, rife with local handicrafts, jewelry, paintings & sculptures for sale.
The Negev Artists’ House [photo by Haim Ohayon] of the Negev Creative Artists’ Association, is located in the Old City in a beautifully-restored 19th century Ottoman building. Always on exhibit are works by local Negev artists, including Bedouin and Ethiopian artwork, and most of the works on display are also for sale, as are souvenirs in the giftshop. On occasion, there are guest lecturers, musical performances, and cultural events held in the garden – 08-6273828.
Amcha – the Association for Holocaust Survivors and Their Families, also displays the works of Holocaust survivors – 08-6270224, http://www.amcha.org.
There are a number of Israeli postage-stamps with Be’er-Shevan themes, such as: The Negev Brigade Monument (1986); the Iraqi “Star” Synagogue (1983); the municipal city symbol (1966); and stamps commemorating the Israeli National Stamp Exhibitions held in Be’er-Sheva in 1982, 1990, etc. by the Be’er-Sheva Stamp-Collectors’ Society.
Much beautiful Jewish religious artwork may be found in the ca.237 synagogues throughout the city, such as: stained-glass windows, woodwork, marblework, silver ornaments, embroidered curtains, etc. The Struma Synagogue in the Aleph neighborhood has a special historical exhibit commemorating the 791 victims of the sinking of the immigrant ship “Struma” during WWII, which is open to the public – 08-6235942.
The Be’er-Sheva artists and societies
Some of Be’er-Sheva’s many gifted artists, past and present, include(d): Florence Amit, Julian Ashkenazi, Avi Asraf, Toft Avrahami, Meir Azriel, Ya’el Azulai, Peninah Barkai, Ruth Bauman, Svetlana Belay, Moshe Ben Attia, Melech Berger, Uri Bet-Or, Ella Binstock, Hedva Boger, Alizah Burshak, Jonah Burstein, Pnina & Hector Calniquer, Angel Cantor, Dora Casapu, Anat Cohen, Jonathan Cohen, Kathryn Cohen, Daria Davidov, Shulamit Davidovicz, Ze’ev Deckel, Goel Drori, Ilanah Drori, Suzanne Eilat, Yulia Eisenberg, Tamar Eitan, Suzi Elbaz, Irena Felstone, Shula Fremder, Moshe Gabay, Mazal Galam, Albert Gatot, Yoram Goren, Ariela Havin-Gardiman, Albert Gatot, Yaffa Gabriel, Ruth Gresser, Dora Gurevich, Tami Hakham, Alin Haviv, Barukh Karp, Asya Keinan, Avivah Krispel, Oleg Krotov, Leah Krugman, Henri Labouz, Natalia Lange, Ya’el Lapal, Lia Laufer, Miri Levin, Michael Lippel, Abraham Lucki, Dyna Malamed, Mati Mann, Genia Manor, Bella Margolis, Keren Meisler, Daniela Meller, Judith Meyer, Georgina Meyer-Duellman, “Katcho” Oscar Alberto Monastirsky, Rachel Beatriz Mosches, Galina Nekrasova, Gl Nemet, Olga Novik, Ingrid Noyman, Vidik Noyman, Orit Orion, Edward Ostrovsky, Lev Otaveski, Guillermo Rappaport, Ilanah Ravak, Connie Reisner, Lilia Reznikov, Hannah Helen Rosenberg, Moti (Asayag) Sadeh, Shimon Sarusi, Liza Shabtay, Tamar Shachar, Gideon Shani, Noah Shitrit, Yehudit Shitrit, Vladimir Shneider, Tatiana Shumova, Hilla Spitzer, Rina Stellman, Sa’adya Sternberg, “Striko” (Aryeh Sorek), Olga Svecharnik, Daniel Toledano, Simone Touati-Mo’alem, Lev Tukhner, Erica Weisz-Schveiger, Dalia Zakin, Lena Zilberberg, Tova Zinger, Gila Zohar, Tsipi Zohar, and many others.
Some of Be’er-Sheva’s many gifted photographers, past and present, include(d): Haim Baida, Vladimir Chumikov, Garth Davis, Goel Drori, Lev Dynkin, Vladimir Gershtein, Uriel Gur David, Mila Katsenovich, Ethelea Katzenell, Sapir Kuta, Maya Lombrozo, Dani Machlis, Alexander Makarenko, Olga Mukasheva, Irina Opachevsky, Andre Pandiurin, Moshe Perry, Yael Romani, Shafir Sarusi, Liza Shabtai, Valery Sheiman, Michael Schneider, David L. Swerdlow, Nikolay Tartarchuk, Amir Weinberg, Herzl Yosef, Veronika Zvenigorodsky.
There are a currently two main artists’ societies active in Be’er-Sheva and the Negev Region: the Negev Creative Artists’ Association, and the Israel Creative Artists’ and Sculptors’ Association – http://www.art-desert.co.il.
From 1997-2022, there was a unique, active artists’ society named “Pri ha-Shalom” [“the Fruit of Peace“], founded by Georgina Meyer-Duellman with the support of Connie Edell Reisner, intended to bring together and exhibit the works of Jewish, Christian and Muslim artists. They held many exhibits in the Public Library, City Hall and in the Histadrut Bldg. Georgina also taught the visually-impaired to paint and exhibited their amazing works.
An Ethiopian-art workshop is located in the Old City on Sheloshet Bene En Harod St., where traditional Ethiopian sculpting and basket-weaving are done and some pieces are sold.
Art education is available in Be’er-Sheva for all ages. Children may attend classes at: the Youth Arts Center in the Old City – 08-6239565, http://www.artb7.org.il; or may study at “Afik” – Elementary School of the Arts (nicknamed “the red school”) in the Yud-Aleph neighborhood; and students may study at the Visual Arts Center of the Negev at Kaye Teachers’ College – firstname.lastname@example.org, 08-6402751. Private and group lessons may also be booked: handicrafts with Liza Shabtay – 08-6418789; origami with Jonathan Cohen – email@example.com; or the use of water-colors, oils & acrylics with Ruth Gresser – 08-6104728. Finally, “Kivunim” – the Municipal Company for Recreation Culture in Be’er-Sheva offers various art classes for all ages in the many Be’er-Sheva community centers – 08-6290069, http://www.kivunim.co.il.
More on artists and photographers in Be’er-Sheva
Australian sculptor Peter Corlett (b.1944-) created an impressive, lifesized statue of a mounted ANZAC soldier in the Australian Light Horse Brigade charging the city of Be’er-Sheva to conquer it on October 31, 1917, which stands in the excellent Park of the Australian Soldier in the Yud-Aleph neighborhood.
Photographer/Photography Teacher/Curator Goel Drori (b.1948-) has been residing in Be’er-Sheva since 1950 and has taken & collected artistic and documentary photographs of the city, as well as being the curator of many gallery exhibits showing historical and contemporary photographs of the Negev’s capital. He was honored by the Be’er-Sheva Municipality for his various contributions to local culture & preservation of local heritage. Drori founded (2017-) the “Tsalmaniyah” Museum & Gallery to house the unique Michel Zilberstein Camera Collection, to exhibit photographic works, & to serve as a Municipal Photographic Heritage Archive.
Painter Moshe Gabay (d.2010) was known world-wide for his naive/primitive oil paintings, mainly on Moroccan-Jewish and biblical themes, e.g. “Abraham receiving his guests in Be’er-Sheva.”
Painter Ruth Gresser not only teaches painting, but produces “RuthArt” – specialized greeting cards and personalized painted gifts on order – 08-6104728.
Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan (b.1930-) produced an interactive 100-square-meter work in the raw concrete (Art Brut) style located high above the growing Be’er-Sheva metropolis. This permanent installation, comprised of 18 different elements, known as Andartat ha-Negev (Negev Brigade Memorial) commemorates the liberation of Be’er-Sheva from the Egyptian Army and honors all the soldiers and military units that fought to do so on October 21, 1948. It’s considered to be among the world’s dozen best examples of brutalist art. It can be windy atop the hill, but the site also provides a panoramic view of Be’er-Sheva.
Israeli sculptor Dani Kafri (b.1945-) donated several large, outdoor sculptures that stand in the Soroka Medical Center lawns.
Photographer Dani Machlis (b.1972-) has had his photographs published in international magazines, such as National Geographic Traveler and Popular Science, as well as in Israeli newspapers, like Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post. In 2017, his cover photo for the Baltimore Jewish Times earned him the “Best Newspaper Cover Photo Award” granted by the Journalists’ Association of Maryland, Delaware & Washington, D.C. He has a private gallery in his home in the Old City that he opens to the public – 052-8795883, http://www.danimachlis.com.
Georgina Meyer-Duellmann (b.1943-) and Connie Edell Reisner (b.1925-) founded the “Fruits of Peace” Association in 1997, to bring together artists from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Gina specializes in woodcuts and monotypes, and also teaches art to the blind, to children and seniors – http://www.ginameir.com.
American artist/sculptor Phillip Ratner (b.1937-) donated a special collection of his biblical art (paintings, bas-reliefs & sculptures) for permanent display at Yad la-Banim (memorial to the city’s fallen soldiers) located next to City Hall.
Photographer Shafir Sarusi won the photography prize for 2 films: “Hitching a ride” and “The way home” at the Southern Cinema Festival (2007).
Joyce Schmidt (1942-1991) founded Israel’s first hand papermaking mill in Be’er-Sheva in 1979, making natural paper out of Thymelaea hirsuta (a local wild plant known by the Bedouin in Arabic as mitnan).
Miniature artist & photographer Liza Shabtay (b.1947-) creates unique and humorous pieces out of all that comes to hand, natural and recycled materials, including: seashells, buttons, bones, blobs of dry glue, pine-cones, seeds, used bottles, etc. Liza has exhibits permanently displayed at the BGU Aranne Library and at the BGU Dept. of Biology.
The late painter Vladimir Shneider (1937-2016) had a very distinctive style. Many of his paintings depict biblical or mythological themes. His artwork has been recognized and exhibited both in Europe and across Israel. In addition to his artistic talent, in 2002, he published his extensive research in comparative linguists. In 2017, an updated catalogue of his selected works was posthumously published, entitled The Art of Shneider Vladimir: Monographia (2nd ed.).
Young painter Hilla Spitzer (b.1985-, Be’er-Sheva) was given an “Art Promotion Award” by the Negev Development Authority and will be presenting an exhibit of her works entitled: “Paintings from Be’er-Sheva” in the BGU Senate Gallery from 25.10.17-9.1.18 – http://www.theartlab.co.il.
Sa’adya Sternberg (b.1963?-) is a brown-paper structural origami sculptor. He his published a book entitled Sculptural Origami in 2011. Sa’adya teaches his personal technique for paper folding and curates exhibits
Most graffiti artists usually don’t have formal, indoor exhibits of their works, but the Negev graffiti artist, nicknamed “Striko” (b.1949-, nee Aryeh Sorek), has had exhibits of his works in Be’er-Sheva at the Youth Center in the Old City. In 2017, the Youth Center also presented an exhibit featuring”free-style” graffiti art curated by another graffiti artist “Spine” (Avi Tal) and fellow graffitists, such as: “Remo,” “Sliz,” “Dope,” & others. Some of their signed streetside works appear around Be’er-Sheva.
Sculptor Don Winton (d.2007) contributed a life-like bust of visionary and “founding father of Israel” David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) to his namesake, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. It’s located in front of the Aranne Central Library on the Marcus Family Campus. Ben-Gurion, Israel’s 1st Prime Minister, always said that the future of the State of Israel will depend on the future of the Negev Region.
Unique art exhibits
In Nov. 2017, a special exhibit, marking 44 years since David Ben-Gurion‘s demise, was displayed in the City Hall Gallery. This exhibit was entitled: “The Vision of Be’er-Sheva through the Camera’s Lense,” and consisted of photographs, taken by photographer Hanan Epstein from Sedeh Boker.
In light of the centennial celebrations of the conquest of Be’er-Sheva by the ANZAC & British Commonwealth forces on October 31, 1917, and for the first time in Israel, the Negev Museum of Art is displaying an exhibit of contemporary Australian art: paintings, photographs and video-clips by internationally acclaimed Australian artists – 30-31/10/2017. Two of the Australian artists will be present to talk to the visitors in the gallery.
Annual/biannual art events
Kaye Teachers’ College, Visual Arts Center of the Negev sponsors an annual, professionally-guided marathon for the drawing, sketching and photography of nude models. Participants must pre-register & come fully-equipped. There’s a minimal entrance free – firstname.lastname@example.org, 08-6402751.
Maccabi Health Services holds an annual Children’s Art Contest and the winners’ drawings are published on the Maccabi yearly calendar.
Following the legacy of papermaking artist Joyce Schmidt (1942-1991), the 2nd International Biennale for Paper Art was previously held in Be’er-Sheva in 2015. In September 2017, the 3rd International Biennale for Paper Art exhibited various paper-art, created by 66 artists from 13 countries, at three different venues: City Hall Gallery; the Artists’ House in the Old City; and at the Carasso Science Park. It is hoped that this will become an ongoing biannual Be’er-Sheva tradition.
Every year at the beginning of September, the ‘temporary-resident’ Indian-Christian community of caregivers in Be’er-Sheva celebrates their traditional Indian holiday, Onam, by creating lovely mandalas out of flower petals, for example:
Lost Be’er-Sheva art
There had been a marvelous mural painted across two adjoining walls on the outside of a building in the Old City that I dubbed “A building is born,” apparently done by Rami Meiri – http://www.ramimeiri.com. Sadly, it was obliterated during structural renovations.
From 2000-2014, upon entering the BGU Marcus Family Campus via the “Aliyah Gate” (lit., the immigration gate) those arriving were greeted by a memorable aluminum sculptural installation entitled: “Three blue coats and a travel trunk” by Ofra Zimbalista (1939-2014)–ostensibly representing new immigrants just arriving. In 2014, mere days before she passed away, she suddenly had it removed and replaced by “The Choir.”
One sign that Be’er-Sheva had developed an urban sub-culture, and perhaps some gang activity, was when graffiti began to appear on the long wall marking the northern edge of the Vav neighborhood and elsewhere in the 1990s. It’s gone now, painted over and replaced by some ceramic-art plaques.