The 1948 Venice Biennale: A Meeting Point of "Natives" and "Others"

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The 24th Venice Biennale was inaugurated in April 1948 and was curated by Rodolfo Palluchini. Its pavilions enabled visitors to view art works by 20th century masters for the first time since World War II. Next to European and American artists, the Biennale hosted artists from Israel, who were, as I choose to call them, "Strangers in a Strange Land". My paper would dwell on a cultural phenomenon in which "others" strive to become "natives". It would speak about the principles of such a cultural appropriation by reporting on the events that led to the participation of these artists at the 1948 Biennale and by assessing the stylistic as well as cultural phenomena that enabled them to be considered in their own cultural milieu as "natives". How did these artists, deprived of means of communication with European, let alone with American artistic models, were accepted by Palluchini as participants at the Biennale? My lecture would find the answer in Israel's linkage with the social and political scene of post-war Italy in particular and the Cold-War in general.
Most of the Israeli artists' works adhered to contemporary artistic trends, that advocated middle of the way, semi-abstract art. The appropriation of these basic characteristics of the master's styles, enabled them to enter the 1948 Biennale, the most venerated post-war artistic event. Their participation endowed them with an aura of excellence that, in turn, crowned them as the most revered representatives of Israeli art in contemporary international circles and therefore worthy of attaining the highest echelon within the established Israeli canon in the visual arts. The high level in which they placed themselves is accepted by politicians, art historians, museum curators, art collectors, gallery owners and art dealers to this very day.


Keywords: 1948 Venice Biennale, Israeli Art, Artistic Canon, Artistic Appropriation
Stream: Arts Policy, Management and Advocacy
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Alec Mishory

Lecturer in Art History, Department of Literature, Language and the Arts, The Open University of Israel
Tel Aviv, Israel

Art historian and Cultural Studies person, born Tel Aviv, Israel. PhD in Art History from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (1997). I write the textbooks for the art-history courses of the Open University in Israel ("Italian Renaissance Art", "Art History: an Introduction", "Icons and Emblems in Zionist Culture", "Still Life", "An Introduction to Israeli Art" and more). My research on Jewish-Israeli symbolism was published in a book entitled "Lo and Behold: Zionist Visual Symbols in Israeli Culture" (2000). In another one of my books, "Joseph Budko and H. N. Bialik’s Complete Works Edition of 1923, Modern Hebrew Poetry and Art in Harmony" (2006) I discuss the history of modern Hebrew typography and design focusing on the contribution of Jewish artists to the Jewish cultural renaissance. I have taught courses of Jewish and Israeli art and have many publications about the origins of Israeli art and its links with Zionist Utopias. The common theme of my research projects is modern Judaism's VISUAL contributions to the overall modern Hebrew renaissance phenomenon while aiming at stressing the significance of the visual medium since, in contemporary Judaic studies research, it is usually placed in the shadow of the verbal.

Ref: A09P0595