Put 15 painters in an apartment with a breathtaking vista of the Old City of Jerusalem and you get the promise of an extraordinary third annual Jerusalem Biennale, set to take place October 1 through November 16th next year, 2017.

This was one of several events planned to create a buzz for the biennale.

“I invited 15 artists to see the view and create something related to this experience,” explained Jerusalem Biennale Founder Rami Ozeri, speaking at an invitation-only kickoff party on October 13 in the penthouse of a new luxury building, Boutique HaNevi’im, which offered the artists a seventh-floor panoramic perspective for inspiration.

Ari Marache’s interpretation of the view. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Ari Marache’s interpretation of the view. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Debbie Kampel set up her easel on one of the porches and focused on the Damascus Gate.

A work by Debbie Kampel. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
A work by Debbie Kampel. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Sam Griffin chose to draw an Arab construction worker inside the penthouse. Leah Silver and Hovav Landoy used colorful straws and connectors to build an abstract structure evoking the multicultural capital city.

With wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand, we circulated among the artworks mounted around the apartment and stepped onto the balconies for a taste of the magnificent view that inspired them – sweeping from the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount to the steeple of Augusta Victoria church-hospital on the Mount of Olives to the towers of Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

Yoram Raanan took dozens of photos of the view at different times of day before painting four interpretations of the view. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Yoram Raanan took dozens of photos of the view at different times of day before painting four interpretations of the view. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Motta Brim painting on the patio. Photo by Sofya Balashev
Motta Brim painting on the patio. Photo by Sofya Balashev

Azorim, the real-estate company marketing Boutique HaNevi’im, and Marrache Fine Arts Gallery of Jerusalem cosponsored the event.

Lenore Cohen, a Brooklyn resident with roots in Aleppo, Syria, showed ISRAEL21c her works incorporating Arabic-style calligraphy.

Lenore Cohen took up a position on the roof of Boutique Hanevi’im to draw her version of the skyline. Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Biennale
Lenore Cohen took up a position on the roof of Boutique Hanevi’im to draw her version of the skyline. Photo courtesy of Jerusalem Biennale

“I’m here on an artist residency with the Jerusalem Bienniale, developing a series wherein I take traditional Judeo-Arabic phrases from my community and translate them into visuals, usually in a way that adds new meaning and context,” she said.

“So with this show I took the same approach: I searched through the long list of phrases I have to find several that I thought spoke to the nature of the Jerusalem skyline. The three I chose were: ‘What is sweeter than halva? Friendship after enmity,’ ‘Distance yourself from quarrel and sing’ and ‘Patience is the key to success.’

“I drew the landscape and then painted these phrases into the scene, looming large over everything like declarative clouds.”

Lenore Cohen with a work in which she placed a muted photo of herself and her father in the center. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Lenore Cohen with a work in which she placed a muted photo of herself and her father in the center. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Ozeri said that so far 140 artists from Israel and other countries have expressed interest in exhibiting at the biennale, which is meant to serve as a connection point between “Jerusalem, Jewish peoplehood and contemporary art.”

One of Menucha Yankelevitch’s interpretations of the view. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
One of Menucha Yankelevitch’s interpretations of the view. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Institutions, artists’ groups and independent curators worldwide have until November 10 to submit proposals in keeping with the theme “watershed,” using media including photography, video art, installation and performance.

Ozeri described Jerusalem as a city “where so many watershed events have changed the course of Jewish and world history.”

Another painting of Jerusalem by Menucha Yankelevitch. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman
Another painting of Jerusalem by Menucha Yankelevitch. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

The 2015 biennale featured 10 exhibitions of nearly 200 Israeli and international professional artists at seven venues in the city center. Highlights are on view through November 21 at the Laurie M. Tisch Gallery in the JCC of Manhattan and then at Art Basel Miami, December 1-4.

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