Wednesday, March 14, 2007

There's more to Iraq than oil

Iraq-born Israeli artist Oded Halahmy is more of a hit in New York than in Tel Aviv. He showcases the work of other Iraqi artists in his Pomegranate Gallery in New York. Two years ago he even visited Iraq. Haaretz reports:

"Halahmy never became a successful artist in Israel. After leaving Iraq, he lived with his family in a transit camp near Hadera, and they later moved to Jaffa. He served in the Nahal brigade, lived at Sde Boker and began making art, mostly sculptures and paintings. He attended a course in England, and in 1971 he moved to New York to study.

"Just as I had in Israel, I started from zero in New York," he says. "But unlike in Israel, after three difficult years, I began to make a living from art. And this went well enough for me to buy myself a home and gallery in Jaffa, as well as a studio and an apartment in New York. I converted the studio into my gallery. Now I spend three months in New York, three months in Jaffa."

"He also shows his own works at the gallery. "Apparently, no prophet is accepted in his own land," he says. "They exhibit me in various museums in America. For example, the Guggenheim has a work of mine. However, Israelis don't buy them. I show my works at my gallery in Jaffa, and the people who buy them are tourists.

"I don't want to address why there has been no openness to my works in Israel," he continues. "Of course there is discrimination. But even in the most difficult days, when we were living in the transit camps, we didn't sit and weep; we worked hard to get ahead and to get out of the transit camp, into a better world. And it has to be known that we came from a world of culture. We came from a world where we wore jackets and ties, as in the best British tradition, and in Israel we replaced them with khaki, because we wanted to look like the locals. People from my generation, like Menashe Kadishman and Igael Tumarkin, became famous and successful in Israel, and I didn't. But I am happy with my lot here in New York and there in Jaffa."

"About two years ago he visited Iraq, and he even voted in the elections there. "I was a guest of the government," he relates. "I met Jews. I met artists. I can visit Iraq whenever I want."

Read article in full

Jewish artist invited to Baghdad

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