The Betzalel Gallery, a new fine art gallery in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, demands attention. Its chic exterior – like that of a trendy Soho gallery – sits sandwiched between an aging laundromat and a bland, pre-war brownstone apartment building. Specializing in Chasidic Art, the gallery stands as a symbol of the continued revival of a once scarred community and the remarkable emergence of this art form.
Inside the Betzalel Gallery are the Rembrandts, van Goghs and Monets of the Chasidic art world. These are the most sought after – and highly ticketed – art pieces by the contemporary masters of Judaic art.
The gallery curator is Shmuel Pultman, who lives in the Chasidic enclave of Boro Park, Brooklyn. He lists Rembrandt, Goya, Velazquez and Sargent as his favorites of the old masters. Pultman a tall, bearded man dressed in traditional Chasidic garb can talk Pissarro paintings as easily as a page of Talmud.
Since opening his first art gallery in Boro Park almost 20 years ago, Pultman has been at the forefront of Chasidic art’s meteoric rise. He has seen the prices of the finest paintings jump tenfold at the same time as contemporary representational art has declined in popularity.
“Twenty years ago, the most a Judaic artist was able to command for a painting was $20,000 – $30,000. The Betzalel Gallery’s top painting has an asking price of $175,000 although there are paintings starting from $3,000.”
For Pultman, it was straight-forward to recognize that Chasidic art’s time had arrived. He saw that many Holocaust survivors’ children had achieved considerable financial success. They were building large, beautiful homes but had nothing with which to fill the walls. His mission for the past 20 years has been to educate Jews about fine Jewish art.
The Betzalel Gallery will officially open its doors on Thursday, May 17. There will be an artist reception and exhibition of the great contemporary Judaic artist Itshak Holtz’s watercolors and drawings.
Itshak Holtz is a prime example of the ascendancy of Chasidic Art. Born in Poland, he immigrated to Jerusalem before World War II. He began drawing and studying art in Israel and continued his studies in New York. His everyday portrayals of traditional Jewish life, as well as the charm of Jerusalem’s winding alleyways, have become iconic and are some of the most coveted pieces in the Jewish art world.
Now 86-years-old, Mr. Holtz is the elder statesman of the Chasidic art world and is acknowledged as the greatest contemporary Judaic artist.
The Exhibit will run from May 20 through June 10.