From June 4 to November 15, 2018, the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa will present Arrivals, Departures, an exhibition that reexamines a collection of 138 works of art donated to the University of Haifa in 1978 by Dr. Oscar Ghez.
Arrivals, Departures showcases 18 promising Jewish artists of the École de Paris whose lives and careers were cut off by the Holocaust. It traces their varied trajectories as they left their homelands in Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Poland to move to Paris and pursue artistic careers, only to be persecuted during the Holocaust. In keeping with Oscar Ghez’s mission of preserving these works as “precious relics” from “dispersion or destruction,” this exhibition brings these artists and their work back into focus, featuring some of the only remaining works by these artists.
The Installation: Unfolding chronologically, the works on view are divided into two broad chapters, beginning with the artists’ “Arrivals” in Paris in the first decades of the 20th century and concluding with their forced “Departures” during the Nazi occupation. It moves from the large, colorful canvases of the 1910s and 1920s inspired by Fauvism, Expressionism and Cubism, and culminates in works created under duress and in extremis during the Holocaust. Grouped according to the major genres the artists gravitated towards (Cityscapes, Landscapes, Nudes, Still Lives and Portraits), the exhibition showcases the remarkable range and diversity between these 18 École de Paris artists. It concludes with juxtapositions between their early work and later work, prompting broader questions about how social pressures affect art making and how artists respond to conditions of persecution.
Some artists are well known; others largely ignored and underappreciated, including Max Jacob, Adolphe Feder, Naum Aronson, Henri Epstein, Nathalie Kraemer, Jacques Gotko, Alexandre Fasini, Moise Kogan, Jacques Cytrynovitch, Nathan Grunsweigh, Abraham Berline, Leon Weissberg, Joachim Weingart, Roman Kramsztyk, Joseph Hecht, Georges Kars, Tobias Haber and Georges Ascher.
Of special interest is the artist and poet Nathalie Kraemer who focused on portraits that become increasingly dark, anxious and abstracted in the late 1930s as conditions deteriorated for Jews. The multi-talented Alexandre Fasini is featured by geometric oils, thickly textured still lives and experimental photographs. In exile, Georges Kars depicted Refugees. Roman Kramsztyk, who had fatefully returned to Warsaw in the summer of 1939 and was trapped in the ghetto, captured its poverty, hunger and despair in fragile, agitated drawings. Abraham Berline and Jacques Gotko continued to create art in the camp of Compiègne, organizing group exhibitions that boosted morale and created community. Many of these works not only document their experiences but also testify to their resistance, as evidenced by Adolphe Feder’s moving Self-Portrait with Jewish Star painted in Drancy before he was sent to Auschwitz. “Even when rounded-up and interned, artists continued to paint and draw behind barbed wire, in the camps and ghettos, in hiding and in exile. Despite the lack of materials and appalling conditions, they remained fiercely committed to the act of making” said Rachel Perry, curator of the exhibition.
Like its title, this exhibition marks a new departure. For the first time, these works are placed in a broader context. Original artifacts, documents and photographs offer a fuller picture of the Parisian art scene in the prewar period and shed light on the ways in which the implementation of the Final Solution affected each artist and his or her work. Based on new scholarship and archival research, this long overdue examination of the Ghez Collection weds art and history.
Arrivals, Departures presents over 90 works in an array of media. Based on the Ghez collection, it is complemented by loans from the Ghetto Fighters’ House, Yad Vashem, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Mishkan Museum of Art Ein Harod, in addition to important and generous loans from the Petit Palais in Geneva of works never seen before in Israel.
Curated by Dr. Rachel Perry, Arrivals, Departures is the result of a two-year long research project conducted by graduate students in the Weiss-Livnat International Graduate Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa. Curatorial assistants Ella Falldorf and Annika Friedman assisted with research, design, installation and writing together with interns Pninit Saban, Rivka Baum and Margarita Pedchenko. Based on new scholarship, this long overdue examination of the Ghez Collection is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with thematic essays and eighteen in-depth biographical entries contributing a wealth of new knowledge.
Support for Arrivals, Departures was provided by Doron and Marianne Livnat and The Hecht Museum. The exhibition is open to the public seven days a week in the art wing of the Hecht Museum on the campus of the University of Haifa, Mount Carmel: Sun. Mon. Wed. Tue. 10:00 am-4:00 pm; Thur. 10:00 am-7:00 pm; Fri. 10:00 am-13:00 pm; Sat. 10:00 am-14:00 pm. The entrance is free of charge.