press release

A multifaceted theme in the portraiture tradition, the family portrait, charged with memories and longing links, the documentary with the sentimental. According to the Classical tale about the invention of painting, it was the urge to eternally inscribe the image of a loved one that led to the first work of art: the story about the Corinthian Maid who traced the silhouette of her departing lover on the wall has become a formative myth for the iconic role of art vis-à-vis life’s ephemerality. In the past, only a select few were privileged to leave a portrait behind. The invention of photography in the mid-19th century made the ritual of perpetuating significant moments and events a common practice. These frozen flashes contain inherent tension, being candid yet staged, exposed yet shrouded in repressed shadows, vital yet vulnerable and transient. Thus, the family photo album, handed down from generation to generation like a visual genetic code, has become a sort of sacred object protecting against oblivion.

The exhibition was initially inspired by Cuban-American artist Anthony Goicolea’s contemporary art-work, recently acquired for the Israel Museum collection. Goicolea extracted old portraits from his family albums to fabricate an imaginary encounter. The double representation - in both positive and negative - and the blurring of the boundary between painting and photography endow the work with a psychological as well as conceptual duality. In the spirit of this personal journey, family traces by artists from diverse times and places, from the Museum’s wide-ranging holdings and from other collections, are presented here. A special loan from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, brings a painting by Frida Kahlo to Israel for the first time. This intimate, symbolic family tree addresses the complex identity of an artist with native Mexican and German immigrant ancestry.

The circular route followed by the exhibition begins with the wedding celebration and concludes with dirges for the dead. Along its course, the familial composition is revealed as being greater than the sum of its parts, involving constantly changing relationships, addition and subtraction, replication and division. The work of Israeli artists forms a special focus; some attribute social and cultural significance to the family unit, whether as a cornerstone for the new homeland or as testimony to a history of displacement, and loss. Above all, the exhibition explores the artist’s gaze and the way in which the traditional family portrait can construct a personal identity that is reflected in those around us.

only in german

Family Traces
Initiator: Anthony Goicolea

Künstler: Diane Arbus, Raed Bawayah, Guy Ben-Ner, Christian Boltanski, Nurit David, Anthony Goicolea, Keren Gueller, Michal Heiman, Frida Kahlo, Uri Katzenstein, Avraham Ofek, Pablo Picasso, Michael Rorberger, Gideon Rubin, Reuven Rubin, Kiki Smith, Angela Strassheim, Micha Ullman, Gal Weinstein, Pavel Wolberg ...