For Heaven’s Sake! – The Fourth Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art

Israel Dahan, Hanukkah Lamp–Photo Credit: Amir Menahem
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200 Israeli and international artists, Jewish and non-Jewish, 30 exhibitions and 14 venues

Edited by: JV Staff

Marina Abramovic (Waterfall 2000-2003) Courtesy of the Marina Abramović Archives and MONA

The 4th Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, which explores the intersection between contemporary art and the Jewish world of content, will this year take as its theme For Heaven’s Sake! (LeShem Shamayim). The 2019 Jerusalem Biennale, which showcases the work of 200 professional Israeli and international artists in 30 exhibitions and projects exhibited in 14 venues around the city, will run October 10–November 28, 2019. Artists (Jewish and non-Jewish) from the USA, UK, Europe, Morocco and Argentina are participating in the 2019 Jerusalem Biennale, alongside artists from Israel.

For Heaven’s Sake! (LeShem Shamayim) will allow an exploration of the motivation for action in general, and for artistic creation in particular, as well as the Jewish tradition of dispute. For Heaven’s Sake! refers to the well-known verse from theMishnah, Ethics of the Fathers: “Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure”. The dynamic, sometimes challenging, process of seeking truth, even in mundane matters, is connected at its core to this tradition of dispute. It is a path which empowers mankind’s quest to repair the world, and along the way, perhaps even find transcendence.

Lynne Avadenka Afterword Snow Globe_Credit_R. H. Hensleigh. Living Under Water.

The Jerusalem Biennale Founder and Creative Director Rami Ozeri: “Discourse and discord lie at the heart of creativity. The 2019 Jerusalem Biennale explores this diverse dialogue, through the multi-layered language of the visual arts, challenging the viewing public and generating debate while offering a unique platform to a wide variety of artists, Jewish and non-Jewish. We have seen the Jerusalem Biennale grow from 60 artists in the inaugural year of 2013 to over 200 in the 2019 Jerusalem Biennale. This year, we are particularly proud of the participation of contemporary artists of the highest international standards.”

The iconic Jerusalem International YMCA building, which serves as a meeting place for the city’s diverse population, will host three main Jerusalem Biennale exhibitions:

  • Anne Sassoon (Dislocated Landscape 2005) Photo credit Jerusalem Fine Art Print Ltd., Yair Medina. Two People Holding

    Ziara, Moroccan Common Wisdom. The exhibition, which showcases the work of primarily Muslim Moroccan artists (including visiting artists from Morocco), highlights the historical and contemporary links between individuals and places in Jerusalem and Morocco and embodies a deep mutual longing of each group for the long parted other. Through contemporary Moroccan art and fashion, Ziara explores the Hebraic foundations that have been formally recognized as being at the heart of Moroccan culture. Curated by Amit Hai Cohen.

  • Waterfall. Yugoslavian-born, US-based renowned installation artist Marina Abramović presents Waterfall (2003), a video projection of 108 images, each showing a Tibetan monk or nun chanting in meditative abandon, accompanied by a ‘waterfall’ of sound filling the space that was once the YMCA indoor pool. Commissioned by representatives of the Dalai Lama, the installation is a hypnotic environment of sounds and images, in which Buddhist content, created by a non-Jewish artist, reflects the Biennale’s central theme.
  • Pesi Girsch, Angel 2015_Photo Credit by the artist. Human Nature, Shared Sensitivities

    In the Absence of Writing. Focused on three ancient living traditions with a strong emphasis on oral transmission–the Zoroastrian Avesta, the Jewish Oral Torah and the Indian Veda–Indian award-winning artist Astha Butail traveled to Iran, the United Kingdom and India to immerse herself in these traditions. In spring 2018, Butail was hosted by the Jerusalem Biennale, when she constructed a temporary dwelling in Jerusalem in which her conversations took place.

Jerusalem Biennale exhibitions at the Wolfson Museum for Jewish Art, Hechal Shlomo, include:

  • Living Under Water. An artistic conversation about climate change. Last summer, five Israeli artists took up residence in Venice, a sinking city challenged by global warming, to explore issues related to climate change through a uniquely Jewish lens. The resulting exhibition, in response to their first-hand experience of the forces threatening this iconic city and through multi-disciplinary artistic explorations, compels us to think, act and respond. Curated by Andi Arnovitz.
  • Jean-Pierre Weill_Leaving the Garden_ 2018_Credit Jerusalem Fine Art Print Ltd., Yair Medina. The Well of Becoming

    Human Nature. Shared Sensitivities. The exhibition contemplates the ultimate question: ‘what art will stand the test of time?’ It includes works of art in a range of media, accompanied by ancient and contemporary texts which isolate the impulses which have propelled the artists – renowned artists such as Micha Ullman and Avner Sher alongside young up-and-coming artists–to bring their works into existence. Curated by Smadar Sheffi

  • Two People Holding. In this solo exhibition, Jerusalem-based artist Anne Sassoon, who has lived and worked in the UK and South Africa, presents paintings and drawings with a common ground of mirrored images of people, presented in a wide range of social interactions – multidimensional work that requires deep analysis and thought. Curated by Ilan Wizgan
  • The Well of Becoming. Featuring 100 small watercolors relating to three popular Biblical stories created for an illustrated children’s book for adults, French-born, Jerusalem-based artist Jean-Pierre Weill brings a deeply personal alternative interpretation that is also relevant to many who grapple with existential questions today. The exhibition, in which each painting is accompanied by a concise, evocative text, is experienced as though traveling through a book from beginning to end. This intensely personal spiritual journey forms a visual- textual dialogue, seemingly simple, but sophisticated and deep. Curated by Dr. Shimon Lev
  • Feminine Waters. This solo exhibition by Chani Cohen Zada tells the stories of women from the Bible painted through a mystical perspective, where the dialectic of the divine, its masculine and feminine aspects meet. In Kabbalah, masculine waters represent the downward flow of divine benevolence and feminine waters represent the elevation from below. The images reflect the power of creation flowing through the feminine life forces that are like birth fluids. Curated by Rachel Verliebter.
  • Leora Wise Venice Jerusalem 201 Photo Credit by the artist. Living Under Water

    Under One Same Sky. In this exhibition, 18 Argentinian artists create a large conceptual piece that morphs conversation with confrontation. A large mural with 36 black, gray, and white hexagons symbolizes conversation, an essential component to coexistence, and is surrounded by 18 smaller rectangles that contain color, representing the artists’ individual identities, and thereby confronting the uniform nature of community. Curated by Mirta Kupferminc.

  • Table of Content/Table of Contact. The Jewish Artists Initiative (JAI) of Southern California presents a multi-channel video installation and selection of original artist books that represent multiple voices of American Jewish artists of different ages and social backgrounds, with the intention of extending contemporary proactive discourse in the USA o in real time by presenting it to the audience in Israel. The hope is to open mutual channels of a respectful and inspirational trans-Atlantic discourse for a cause that is greater than the sum of its parts. Curated by Sagi Refael

Other exhibitions of note, with the participation of international artists, include:

At the Underground Prisoners’ Museum

  • Experiments with Truth. Experiments with Truth seeks to explore religious thought through visual arts, highlighting the similarities between sacred texts from numerous religions within India, and the Jewish Talmud, where differences of opinion are not only tolerated but welcomed. The exhibition is a collection of paintings, photo installations and sculptures, all created by Indian artists from various faiths. Curated by Gargi Smith, co-founder and chief curator of the Indian Art Circle and a fellow at the Ministry of Culture, for researching Kalamezhuthu, an esoteric performing art practice of Kerala.

Between Hillel and Shamai

  • Heaven is All Around Us takes contemporary Jewish art out of the gallery and into the Jerusalem streets. Curators Smith and Kaplan-Wildmann bring Jewish street artists (six from Israel and six from overseas) to Jerusalem to make their mark on the face of this diverse, complex, old/new city. Exposing their art and themselves to the elements and to the wear-and- tear of daily urban life, street artists offer a particularly refreshing take on where exactly they feel heaven resides.

Hebrew Union College Jerusalem Campus

  • Presence. Absence. Traces: Dissenting Voices of Warsaw’s Jewish Identity. Ewa Chomicka and Magda Konopka, curators at the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, bring together a collection of pieces of both Jewish and non-Jewish artists addressing the Jewish heritage of Warsaw.
  • Creation and the Fall. Five American artists explore the theme of the Garden of Eden through paintings and sculptures, contrasting the beauty and innocence of creation against immorality and decay. Curated by Scott Peck.

Other 2019 Jerusalem Biennale exhibition venues include, among others, the Van Leer Jerusalem Research Institute, the Clal Center, Hutzot Hayotzer and the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

Gallery talks, panel discussions with artists and curators, music and dance performances will be available, as well as private and group tours guided in English and Hebrew. Tours in additional languages can be arranged on request and based on availability – [email protected]. Each venue will have its own opening event.

Tickets at NIS 45 allow for entry into each of the venues during the seven weeks of the Biennale.

Updated information will be made available at

Biennale program subject to change.

The Jerusalem Biennale is supported by The Leichtag Foundation (San Diego), The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund (New York), The Lambert Family Foundation (New York), Matthew and Melanie Bronfman, The Leir Charitable Foundations, The Smart Foundation, The Jerusalem Foundation, The Russel Berrie Foundation and private donors, as well as The Israel Ministry of Culture, The Jerusalem Municipality and The Jerusalem Development Authority.

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