Top 10 things for art lovers to do in Israel

Whether you prefer museums and galleries, crafts shows or painting the sights yourself, Israel offers a range of old and new art-related experiences.

Herta and Paul Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Herta and Paul Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The visual arts scene in Israel is flourishing. From the country’s numerous museums, to one of the world’s only villages for artists (Ein Hod), to daringly creative street graffiti, visiting art lovers are sure to be overwhelmed by the talent in Israel.

ISRAEL21c narrows it down and offers these top 10 things for art lovers to do in Israel:

1. Art museums

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Israel has the international honor of housing the most museums per capita in the world.  It would be impossible to visit every art museum here on just one visit. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israel Museum are two must-see venues. After that, choose from the Design Museum Holon, Ralli Museums in Caesarea, Eretz Israel Museum, Museum of Israeli Art-Ramat Gan, Nahum Gutman Museum of Art, Haifa Museum of Art, Wilfrid Israel Museum, among tens of others.

2. Galleries

GINA Gallery on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.

GINA Gallery on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.

Israel is an exciting hub of contemporary art. Galleries offer a more intimate connection to the next generation of artists and the veterans who continue to make their mark in the art world.

Among the top art galleries to take in on your next visit to Israel are Gordon Gallery, Alon Segev Gallery, Litvak Gallery, Braverman Gallery, Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery, Art-Time Gallery,  Chelouche Gallery, Agripas 12, Dvir Gallery, Rothschild 69, Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery  and GINA Gallery of International Naive Art. Most of these are in Tel Aviv.

3. Artists’ houses

Artists’ houses in Israel are vibrant centers for exhibitions and cultural gatherings. The Jerusalem Artists’ House  is located in a historic building that once housed the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts founded by Boris Schatz in 1906, today known as the Bezalel Academy for Arts and Design. The building also housed the Bezalel National Museum, a precursor of the Israel Museum. Today, it is a center for exhibitions of works from young artists to veterans.

The Artists’ House Tel Aviv is a non-profit organization aimed at helping artists. The center opens at least seven exhibitions each month and also offers workshops, lectures and symposia. The Marc Chagall Artists’ House in Haifa, built in 1954 on the initiative of the Association of Painters and Sculptors, offers local exhibitions, art lectures and chamber concerts.

4. Ancient mosaics

A partially restored mosaic floor in Tiberias. Photo courtesy Israel Tourism Ministry.

A partially restored mosaic floor in Tiberias. Photo courtesy Israel Tourism Ministry.

With thousands of years of history under every stone, Israel is home to a spectacular collection of ancient art. Archaeological sites are brimming with breathtaking mosaic floors – most of them found in ancient churches and synagogues.

Head over to the sixth-century synagogue at the Beit Alfa National Park  to see an intricate mosaic featuring biblical and mythological stories in colorful stone pieces. The “Mona Lisa of the Galilee” – a beautiful mosaic with hundreds of small stones in dozens of natural shades — entertains visitors from her floor space at the Tzipori National Park west of Nazareth. The park is home to dozens of awe-inspiring mosaics.

Don’t forget the Byzantine-era “Bird Mosaic” in Caesarea or the church mosaic at Kibbutz Beit Kama. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem also boasts spectacular Christian-themed floor and wall mosaics. If you’d prefer to see a number of astonishing mosaics in one place, visit the museum at the Good Samaritan Inn archeological site — the only mosaic museum in Israel and one of few in the world.

5. Paint and tour

A new breed of art tours around Israel offers tourists the chance to tap into their creative energies. Beer Sheva Art Experience  and Paint Israel Art School combine touring with art workshops. Why take a point-and-shoot photo of the Negev when you can paint it? The tours are geared for artists and non-artists alike.

6. Street art/graffiti

Graffiti in Tel Aviv. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

Graffiti in Tel Aviv. Photo by Nicky Blackburn

To get a street-level feel of the art scene in Israel, there’s no better place to go than for a walk. There’s a growing graffiti and street-art scene here that includes artists Rami Meiri, Broken Fingaz Crew, Know Hope, Pilpeled, NRC, TML, DEDE, Inspire and Gezer.

To understand what you’re looking at, take a tour with linguist Guy Sharett, who runs Streetwise Hebrew, a popular graffiti tour of South Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood, or with Street Art Jerusalem. “We use the walls as a textbook. I’m like a mediator between you and the wall,” Sharett recently told ISRAEL21c.

7. Ein Hod artists’ village

Skating Girl” by Ora Segalis in Ein Hod. Photo courtesy of PikiWiki Israel.

Skating Girl” by Ora Segalis in Ein Hod. Photo courtesy of PikiWiki Israel.

Israel’s only cooperative artists’ village, Ein Hod, is a small community of artists living on the western slopes of Mount Carmel. Dada artist Marcel Janco established Ein Hod in 1953 and with the help of a group of progressive artists built a creative environment for art and art education.

Weekends are the most popular time to visit the museums, galleries, artists’ homes and shops here. Residents include internationally acclaimed sculptor Dina Merhav, sculptor-painter Benjamin Levy and photographer Ron Kedmi, among many others.

8. Bauhaus Center

Inside the Bauhaus Center.

Inside the Bauhaus Center.

The Bauhaus Center should be your first stop in Tel Aviv if you’re an architecture buff. The center hosts gallery space, organizes tours of the historic International style of Bauhaus architecture and also sells related memorabilia.

Tel Aviv is known as the White City and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its 4,000 buildings in this style of architecture.

9. Arts & crafts fairs

Browsers at Nahalat Binyamin Arts & Crafts Fair. Photo courtesy Israel Tourism Ministry.

Browsers at Nahalat Binyamin Arts & Crafts Fair. Photo courtesy Israel Tourism Ministry.

Every Tuesday and Friday, hundreds of residents and visitors make their way to the Nahalat Binyamin Arts & Crafts Fair.  An initiative of the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa begun in 1987, this street fair boasts more than 200 artists and craftspeople selling ceramics, jewelry, toys, wood art, blown glass, wearable art and recycled creations. There’s a committee selection process to ensure quality. In Jerusalem, head over to the Friday-only Bezalel Arts and Crafts Street Fair. Started in 2009, the market is set up between Bezalel Street and Shmuel HaNagid Street, next to the old home of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Israel’s national art school. Both fairs are pre-crowdfunding platforms for locals wanting to boost business and build a community in the process.

10. Fresh Paint

If you’re in town for the Fresh Paint Contemporary Art & Design Fair  this November in Tel Aviv, make sure to include it on your itinerary. The fair features Israel’s leading artists and designers and aims to generate exposure, recognition and income for them while introducing their original and creative output. The event is held in a different location every year.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.