October 12, 2003, Updated September 13, 2012

An arts and crafts show of works by 10 Israeli artists and craftspeople will be one of nine special exhibits presented at this year’s tenth anniversary SOFA (Sculpture Objects & Functional Art) CHICAGO 2003. The works will be on view at the Navy Pier in Chicago between October 17-19.

Organized by the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts (AIDA), in cooperation with the Eretz Israel Museum, the project, which was designed to get talented Israelis displayed in U.S. galleries, was initated by American collectors Doug and Dale Anderson, and Canadian/Israeli philanthropists Charles and Andy Bronfman.

“After visiting Israel and seeing the sensational work being done by artists working in ceramics, fibers, glass and metals, we wanted to bring a group of top level American collectors over to see for themselves. Unfortunately, the Intifada made that impossible. When Andy suggested that we bring the artists to America, an idea was born,” said Dale Anderson.

Doug Anderson added that “AIDA has already achieved its first goal – to spread a sense of optimism through the arts community in Israel Our final goal is to see that each artist is represented after SOFA by a terrific American gallery.”

Out of the more than 250 Israeli submissions, the chosen artists include:

** Samuel Barkai (contemporary jewelry);
** Yael Herman (jewelry);
** Julian Tiglat (22k gold jars);
** Shirley Rothstein (jewelry and ceramics);
** Revital Ben- Asher Peretz (porcelain works);
** Michal Zehavi (ceramics);
** Marcelle Klein (ceramics);
** Yehudit Katz (textile art);
** Lilly Poran (fibers, natural materials);
** Dafna Kaffeman (glass).

“The title of the AIDA exhibit at SOFA CHICAGO is Innovation and Influences” explained Charles Bronfman. “Obviously, the art of the many nations from which the artists or their families originate, plus the influence of the history, ancient or modern, of the Middle East, combine to offer both a unique perspective and a new tradition of art and artifact. The time has arrived when Israeli craftsmanship can compete with the best in the world,” added Bronfman, Chairman of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, a family of charitable foundations operating in Israel, the USA and Canada, said. Together with his wife, Andy, he is an avid collector of decorative arts.

The Bronfmans were the hosts for the Anderson’s visit to Israel, where they were taken aback at the quality and variety of local ceramics and jewelry.

“Every time the guide would suggest some biblical site, the question of what ceramics, glass, fiber or jewelry could be found at that locale was asked! Dale and Doug fell in love with the quality and variety of craftsmanship that they discovered in this small country. The variety stems from the fact that there are citizens in Israel from over 100 countries throughout the world. Many artists are from such disparate environments as Ethiopia, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Buchara, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, North America, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, Australia, and, of course, Europe, both East and West. There are artists who are members of families which have lived in these environs for generations and who bring their perspective to their work,” explained Bronfman.

Dale Anderson curated the exhibit with advisory help from Jane Adline of the Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York; Aviva Ben-Sira, Eretz Israel Museuem; Rivka Saker, Sotheby’s Israel; and Davira Taragin, Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin.

The Anderson-Bronfman project is bringing over eight of the Israeli artists to the Chicago expo. According to Bronfman, the selection process was developed and implemented quickly and efficiently.

“Rivka and Aviva culled through hundreds of submissions and sent fifty to Dale, Jane and Davira. Their conclusion was that there was great strength in ceramics and also world-class abilities in fiber and jewelry. Glass has been slower to take hold, yet several examples captured the attention of these superb judges. Portfolios were shipped across the Atlantic. Meetings were held and decisions taken,” he said.

And thanks to those decisions, some amazing Israeli artwork and craftwork is on display for anyone attending SOFA. According to Mark Lyman, President and Founder of SOFA CHICAGO and its sister show, SOFA NEW YORK, the SOFA community started as a small group of visionary galleries, artists, museum curators, and collectors dedicated to bridging the decorative and fine arts.

“It has blossomed into a vibrant international art community, with its own developing critical discourse. The new field has also enjoyed remarkable growth in pricing, in the number and quality of museum and private collections, and in the secondary market,” he said, adding that the special exhibits at SOFA CHICAGO 2003 like AIDA demonstrate the collective creative efforts of individuals and organizations to enhance the field.

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