November 22, 2007

Artist Dan Reisner’s sculpture was one of over 100 globes on show at the Global View exhibit in Tel AvivTel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard is unusually busy for a Wednesday night – but this evening’s traffic is mostly on foot. It’s a perfect night to take a walk: one of those autumn evenings when the dreaded humidity breaks and, by dusk, the city can finally breathe. In the grassy middle of the street, a little girl darts past, followed by a mother holding the girl’s baby brother in her arms. The girl approaches a giant globe and reaches up to press a car window button in the middle. To her startled delight, a cardboard ten shekel piece – twice the size of her head – emerges from a metal slot.

What is an Earth-shaped piggy bank doing in the middle of Rothschild Boulevard? It’s one of over 100 artistic renderings of the planet Earth commissioned from Israeli artists in honor of the global expansion of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), an exhibition called Global View which was on view throughout the fall season.

Each company traded on the TASE handpicked an Israeli artist to transfer the vision and spirit of their organization onto the image of the Earth itself. Nearly half a million people came to see the exhibit, including members of the London Stock Exchange who were honored with their own globe. This is the second such event that TASE has sponsored on Rothschild Boulevard: two years ago they launched an exhibition entitled Bulls and Share Prices.

For Global View, each artist was given a single, solid polyester globe – equal in size and quality. Though they could bargain for an extra globe or two, the artists who so frequently operate without material boundaries were forced to restrict their imaginations and risk individuality when showcased alongside the work of their peers and competitors.

“Much thought, talent, creative agony and work have been invested into each of the globes [resulting] in the inauguration of this colorful, exciting display,” Ronit Harel Ben Ze’ev, senior vice president of the TASE told ISRAEL21c, “[The exhibition] is an extraordinary event in the Israeli art scene.”

Though idealistic in scope, corporate art can be a tricky game: just how can a business without artistic sensitivities reel in an artist to gently represent their company (of which the artist has little to no expertise) without using the dreaded word advertisement?

Dan Reisner defines himself as an “artist, sculptor and explorer.” For the Global View exhibition, he was commissioned to design a globe for a major real estate and construction company. With two weeks to create an artistic representation of a company he knew nothing about and for an exhibition he’d never heard of, Reisner had to think fast: reshaping his personal artistic rhythm and pace to match his set-in-stone deadline.

Reisner’s work, though diverse, often features self-portraiture – in 30 cm. bronze sculptures baring his own face. “When they told me about this work, I became very interested in enlarging a small self-portrait.”

His final creation featured a lanky, bronze man with the globe as his torso: his legs jutting out from the bottom, perching atop a tortoise shell, a model of Reisner’s own head sticking out of the top. Not much to do with real estate and construction, but according to Reisner, that was the idea.

“I don’t believe in making my art an advertisement for a company… I think [art] should be something very free and open. An advertisement has limits. Art is something bigger,” Reisner explained.

Lucky for Reisner, he was brought onto the project so late in the game that “there wasn’t a lot of time to talk about it,” he admits, giving him greater creative freedom than some of the other artists.

“I know there were companies that were very in control of what the artists did… I would have done [the project] if I had been in those kinds of circumstances. It’s only worth my while if I can learn something from it,” says Reisner.

Walking down Rothschild as children crash into the legs of adults, thrilled their city has been turned into a playground, it is patently obvious which companies held the most control over their artists. The Cellcom globe is the clearest – though perhaps the company – Israel’s biggest cellphone provider – needs publicity the least. Gaudy slanted stars glow purple all over the sparkling globe, so recognizable from the insignia frequently pasted on Israeli cellphones. The globe is little more than a spherical billboard, artistically irrelevant when placed side-by-side with the works of artists like Reisner.

Though his company had similar intentions of putting their logo on Reisner’s globe, he was firm in his response: “I said ‘no, that’s not the idea.'” Instead, Reisner justifies his choice of a man standing on a turtle with a globe around his waist in more abstract terms. “My idea is that the man can see the reflection of himself in the world: that which is within us is what we get back from the world. Each person in the world is his own world and sometimes we connect and sometimes we collide.”

For Tel Aviv residents, the exhibition was seen as a pleasant diversion. “My little brother, who is 11, was amazed by it – he was ecstatic,” says 27-year-old Amir, a filmmaker. “He ran the whole length of Rothschild. He especially liked the ones he could play on – with buttons, water and lights.”

While it’s tempting to brand the exhibition as a display of Israeli talent, Reisner resists that concept just as he resists the boundaries of creating a work of empty corporate art. “It’s not about Israeli artists. If it’s good art, it’s about the human nature and it’s not just something nationalistic. For me, art is more than that.”

Harel Ben-Ze’ev agrees: “The common denominator, the unifying factor passing… through all the works is naturally the planet on which we live. We have only this one home – that may well be the true meaning of globalization. Messages about preserving our own globe, social involvement and caring about the quality of life and social justice are common to all mankind and are emphasized by the artists who took part in this show.”

In the end, Reisner, above all enjoyed watching the event from his window – barely 500 meters from his own creation. “It was beautiful to see the children enjoying it,” he says. “Once you go into an art gallery, you’re in a sacred space. But if you go outside and the art is there in the open, the interaction is different… it’s part of your life, it’s part of your neighborhood and it has an impact.”

More on Culture

Read more: