The 1948 Venice Biennale: A Meeting Point of "Natives" and "Others"
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
Dr. Alec Mishory
Lecturer in Art History, Department of Literature, Language and the Arts, The Open University of Israel