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AU Museum Receives Contemporary Israeli Art

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Sigalit Landau. Dead See, 2004. Photograph. The Rothfeld Collection of Contemporary Israeli Art, American University Museum. <br />
Sigalit Landau. Dead See, 2004. Photograph. The Rothfeld Collection of Contemporary Israeli Art, American University Museum.

Donald Rothfeld of New York City, NY, has given The Rothfeld Collection of Contemporary Israeli Art to the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

See select images from the collection.

Israeli art is growing in popularity—Bonham’s, one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques, held its first auction of modern and contemporary Israeli art on May 24., a new Web site described as Israel's HULU, Amazon, iTunes, and virtual MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) all in one (“omanoot” means “art” in Hebrew) aims to promote Israeli art, music, and film to the world. Sotheby’s, another upscale auctioneer, has held contemporary Israeli art auctions since the late 1980s.

“In its first six years, the American University Museum has focused on international art, and particularly on contemporary art from the Middle East, already presenting major exhibitions from Syria, Lebanon, and Israel,” said Jack Rasmussen, the museum’s director and curator. “The Rothfeld gift helps us build a collection that will encourage this free, continuing discussion of ideas, beliefs, and values in the region—exactly what is needed today.”

The collection includes 151 pieces of contemporary, mixed media Israeli art and comes with The Rothfeld Fund, a $50,000 endowed gift to support maintenance and exhibition costs.

The collection chronicles Israel’s history and includes the work of numerous prominent and emerging Israeli artists, including Moshe Kupferman, one of the most prominent Israeli painters as well as a Holocaust survivor and a founder of the Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot (a community in northern Israel that commemorates Jews who fought back against Nazism); Elad Lassry, whose work was recently shown at MOMA; Siglat Landau; and Yael Bartana.

Works by Lassry, Landau, and Bartana are showing at the 2011 Venice Biennale—a major exhibition of contemporary art that takes place once every two years in Venice, Italy.

Rothfeld gave the collection to the American University Museum, the largest university-affiliated art museum in the Washington, D.C., metro area, so that it can help inspire dialogue about the political issues involving Israel.  

American University is also home to the Center for Israel Studies and an undergraduate minor in Israel studies. The center presents the creative and intellectual contributions of modern Israel in the arts, sciences, social sciences and humanities. The Israel studies program, one of the premier programs of its kind in the United States, focuses on Israel's history, unique political democracy, multicultural society, economic development, immigrant absorption, and international contributions.

“When I decided to gift the collection, I felt that the work should be gifted to a non-Jewish-Israeli affiliated institution. I wanted the artist’s work ‘out there’ to be seen, discussed, and compared with that of their peers across the globe,” Rothfeld said. “When I learned about AU’s Israeli Studies Program and met the staff, I was convinced that this was the right venue for the work. The beauty of the Katzen Arts Center and the Washington, D.C., location made it a ‘slam dunk.’”

The gift also honors Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, whom Rothfeld knows personally.  

Works from the collection will be shown at the museum in exhibitions and will coincide with events cosponsored by the museum and AU’s Center for Israel Studies.