Public art in the White City ranges from the whimsical Ben-Gurion beach headstand to the Cyber Horse’s statement about the dark side of technology.
By: Tess Levy
Tel Aviv is known for its legendary public art. While street art is the city’s main claim to fame, the sculptures that saturate the streets and greenspaces of Tel Aviv are equally awe-inspiring.
Since people outside Israel can’t visit Tel Aviv right now, ISRAEL21c brings you pictures and history of some of the best sculptures around the city.
From Tel Aviv University in the north to Jaffa down south, these iconic sculptures can be found in all corners of this artistic city.
KESHER by Ron Arad
This eye-catching sculpture wrapped around the trees of Tel Aviv University’s campus (photo above) was created by award-winning Israeli architect Ron Arad to honor the 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who died on their journey from Ethiopia to Israel.
Its title, “Kesher,” translates to “connection.” Arad used interwoven metals that snake around the square’s palm trees to signify unity and connection.
SPIRIT OF FREEDOM by David Gerstein
This hand-painted sculpture stands tall in the center of Tel Aviv University’s campus. Built in 2009 by David Gerstein, the figure emotes bliss through its dynamic pose and bright hues.
While the shape of the human is constructed through simple lines and squiggles, the butterflies that fill its body are ornate and each unique in its own details and colors. Gerstein’s history as a children’s book illustrator shines through in the youthful energy that is reflected in this work.
GEORGE S. WISE by Robert Berks
This bust of George S. Wise is placed on Tel Aviv University’s campus to honor his legacy as the university’s first president. Wise grew the university from a meager 1,200 students to a population of 12,000 students during his tenure from 1963 to 1971.
In addition to this beautiful tribute, the artist, Robert Berks, also constructed hundreds of other bronze sculptures during his artistic career. His use of layered pieces of bronze adds beautiful dimension and character to this sculpture.
CYBER HORSE by No, No, No, No, No
Right at the entrance of Tel Aviv University, you’ll find this large-scale reference to the Trojan Horse in the ancient story of Troy. Cyber Horse is made of infected computer and phone parts to make a statement about the potential malicious effects of technology and malware.
In modeling this sculpture after the Trojan Horse, the designer effectively communicates that this horse, too, is the carrier of danger and bad news. The variety of computer screens, keyboards, and internal hardware create a complex structure that takes a stance on a modern social issue and is visually fascinating.
TROUBLES IN THE SQUARE by Zadok Ben-David
This collection of steel cutouts on the plaza of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art reflects the people and activities of the city. Like a mirror to the life around it, this artwork illustrates the playful interactions between the birds and people that can often be found on that very plaza.
The scene that Ben-David has created depicts individuals interacting with the birds around them while remaining in isolation from other people nearby.
SHORASHIM – MENORAH by Yaacov Agam
Israeli artist Yaacov Agam is famed for his abstract and colorful works (including the Fire & Water Fountain at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square) that play with the viewer’s perspective based on the angle at which they are viewed.
This sleek steel menorah seems to be in motion as the viewer moves around it, shifting into new shapes and forms with every step. Agam stays connected to his Jewish roots (shorashim) in creating this sculpture that creates art out of a traditional Jewish object.
DAVID BEN GURION HEADSTAND
Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, was an iconic figure in modern Israeli history. His influence on the country and its people was so monumental that many artists have captured it in their artwork of various forms.
In 1957, the photographer Paul Goldman captured B-G doing a headstand on Frishman Beach in Tel Aviv. Residents of the area noted that it was not uncommon to see the prime minister doing such exercises on the beaches and yards near his home in the city.
In 2015, the Tel Aviv Municipality put up this sculpture on the same beach where the original photo was captured, and it has since been a magnet for tourist photos and postcards.
MOSQUITO by Ruslan Sergeev
Standing above a patch of green overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on Mish’ol Emanuel Sela Street, you’ll find this jumbo-sized mosaic mosquito.
The massive insect’s body is made up of shards of broken china, mirror, and glass. Each small piece is unique in its shape and pattern but blends into the larger mosaic to form a beautiful synthesis of broken parts.
This sculpture stands out from the surrounding flat grounds in its scale and shape while simultaneously blending into the nature and wildlife that fill this green space. This sculpture is one of Ruslan Sergeev’s many mosaics that can be found around Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.
GATE OF FAITH by Daniel Kafri
Standing atop Peak Park in Old Jaffa, this beautiful sculpture was built between 1973 and 1975 by Daniel Kafri. The gate is made of Galilee stone and stands four meters (13 feet) tall and wide. The biblical figures of the three patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are depicted on the two vertical pillars.
These patriarchs were the recipients of the promise of the Land of Israel, which is depicted in the top pillar through Joshua’s capture of Jericho and beyond. The combination of these profound details forms the gate of entry to Israel.
SUSPENDED ORANGE TREE by Ran Morin
This incredible piece of art in Jaffa not only appears to be defying gravity but also elegantly combines living and non-living aspects. Fed through a drip system, a tree grows and produces fruit out of a massive “seed” made of steel.
Ran Morin constructed this sculpture to communicate his admiration for Israel, a nation born out of seemingly impossible circumstances—like a seed made of metal–and thrives against all odds.
The blossoming orange tree has hung in Jaffa since 1993 and serves as a metaphor for the growth and production of Israel, a young nation that continuously proves its resilience to all those who observe.
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