Living in a small country like Israel, one risks to fall prey to a periodical numbness deriving from a feeling of the I- have-seen-it-all type. Which leads in turn to a self-inflicted blindness to what there is. I think this is how I manage to miss the March opening of a truly wonderful landmark for art: the newly inaugurated Holon Museum of Design.
Holon – it took me a map to understand – is nothing but a Southern suburb of the ever-expanding Tel Aviv area. It takes a ten minutes drive from the beaches of Tel Aviv to reach what has all the numbers to become the next destination for design lovers. The iconic building, which was designed by Israeli born, international star Ron Arad, stands in the middle of an unimpressive area, a mix of bland -slash- ugly communal buildings, construction sites and a few surviving sand dunes. This is a country where you need to navigate through a lot of disharmonious ugliness before reaching some breathtaking natural or man-made wonder. What you need in this modern traversade of the unforgiving urban desert is an a/c car, a lot of patience for the lack of signaling and the understanding that you can not judge a place which was settled 60 years ago with the same aesthetic standard you would reserve for other places (like Europe).
The museum’s sinuous steel lines stands out in the harsh sunlight with perfect solidity. Their color palette, contrasting sharply with the ever-blue Israeli sky, ranges from terracotta red to orange, conveying a warm vivacity which reminded me of the stucco facades of Italy (I later learned that the façade color was actually manufactured at the Milan Polytechnic Institute).
The prevalence of horizontal and curved lines wraps the visitor in a sense of coziness and harmony, which almost makes you forget about the concrete slab brutality you are coming from. A circular courtyard hubs the different visitor services – including a small cafeteria with stylish miniature cakes of Parisian reminiscence and a modest outlet of Tolmann’s. The interior of the museum continues this minimalist trend, being limited to an auditorium, a creativity lab space and two well-proportioned exhibition rooms, allowing the luxury of a relaxed-paced visit.
Curiously, the Museum had a naked-opening to the public in January, well before its first exhibition. This says a lot about the artistic status of the beautiful structure designed by Arad, which is in itself worth the visit. The museum’s first show, “The State of Things: Design and the 21st Century,” opened later, on March 4th. It is curated by Barbara Bloemink – formerly of New York’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum – and a team of international guest curators. The exhibition presents more than 100 design pieces, “that collectively reflect issues concerning the practice, consumption and cultural impact of contemporary international design“. The objects are grouped according to eight thematic categorization: New Essentialism, Mutant Remix, Of the Body, Social Anxiety, Super Beauty, Craft Economy and Design Lab. Among the many interesting pieces, worth mentioning are the poetic pieces of Nendo, including a Cabbage Chair, made by a single roll of undulated paper, and the”Hanabi” light, made of a shape-changing metal that expands when heated, thus turning simple lamps into phytomorphic animated wonders.
I browsed through the exhibition with an innovative touch-screen guide which is handed free-of-cost at the entrance. The audio-video guide enriches the exhibition with sleek photographs, video and interviews of the artists. The result is a highly enjoyable ride for both design experts and neophytes (like me). After all, in the words of the artistic director Galit Gaon, the Holon Design Museum’s mission is to “educate the Israeli public about design.”
The museum, unique in Israel and among the few in the world entirely dedicated to design, promises to host intercontinental exhibitions related to fashion, lighting, industry, accessories and jewelry by contemporary designers. While the current exhibition time has been extended due to popular demand until 22nd of May, the next one – which has not been announced yet – will apparently revolve around the world of Japanese design.
You can visit the museum’s website: