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Top Five Stops at Tel Aviv’s Beit Ha’ir

Top Five Stops at Tel Aviv’s Beit Ha’ir

Picture of Elijah Shifrin
Updated: 24 April 2017
Tel Aviv’s Beit Ha’ir – the former town hall – rises calmly and confidently out of the recently renovated Bialik Street. Behind the building’s elegant facade, the past and the present entangle into an eclectic vision of the future: a museum and contemporary art gallery fused into a single continuous exhibition. We explore the top five stops in this fusion of history and modernity.
The Culture Trip
© Elijah Shifrin

The Entrance Plaza

A bright plaza spreads before the house: an outdoor foyer that nestles within it a small and round fountain, bounded on the southeast by the Bialik House. This tidy area delightfully contrasts with the hubbub of Allenby Street, just three minutes away by foot, and especially with the riotous Carmel Market, the main attraction on the other side. Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv once worked in the old town hall.

 

The Culture Trip
© Elijah Shifrin

‘Revealing The Hidden City’

The permanent photography exhibition on the ground floor consists of several panels, each accommodating between ten and twenty images (mostly individuals and families posing before the camera) composed into a framing geometrical shape. The panels evoke Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne atlas – only instead of initiating a journey into the troubled mind of a historian, they entice the visitors into Tel Aviv’s chronicles. The arrangement of the photographs on black paper creates an immediate cinematic effect. The backdrop acts as a dark movie screen across which the images flicker as if still frames from a documentary. The sense of immersion from this experience transforms a static display into an animated historical presentation.

 

The Culture Trip
© Elijah Shifrin

The Immersion Experience

The ‘Immersion’ exhibition addresses ‘the ‘gaming’ phenomenon as a key byproduct of the digital revolution,’ and aims to explore the ‘blurred boundaries between the real and virtual worlds.’ The theme transpires through various object and visual displays, starting from batman figurines posed on pedestals, to superhero ‘stained-glass paintings,’ and ending with a meta-outlook: a shimmering triangle of computer screens and a duo of giant console joysticks. Details of this and previous exhibitions can be reviewed on Beit Ha’ir website’s shows page.

 

The Culture Trip
© Elijah Shifrin

The Mayor’s Office

The historical linchpin of the venue, Meir Dizengoff’s reconstructed office is an elongated room decorated with original paraphernalia, including a hanger with a hat and a coat. This enclave functions as a bona-fide museum. Obsolete artifacts – a typewriter, a dial telephone, a rotating globe – pose as much interest as relics of the recent past as they do as Meir Dizengoff’s personal items. The adjacent hall registers Dizengoff’s public persona: a screen replaying footage of a patriotic speech, letters received from admirers, and an entire desk covered with children’s drawings, all dedicated to the city of Tel Aviv and its first mayor. The walls of the hall are covered with large-scale portraits made in official settings, revealing Dizengoff the politician.

 

The Culture Trip
© Elijah Shifrin

3D or Trompe l’oeil?

Modernity once again encroaches on history, as just a few steps from the Dizengoff rooms, several imposing paintings elucidate the ‘gaming theme.’ The images depict either young people, consumed by the games on their computer screens, or oversized gaming-character holograms, acting as humans. The message is clear: playing a character in a game means being a character in a game; the interflow of ‘realities’ affects gamers in ways that are yet to be fully understood.

Apparently borrowing from video game concepts, the paintings illustrate 3D environments that from certain angles create the illusion of depth, like the Baroque trompe l’oeil technique, which has cultivated the idea of optical illusion for centuries. And for now, it seems, the standoff between the past and the present remains locked in a status quo – perhaps, exactly where it should be.

 

 

Elijah Shifrin

Elijah Shifrin is a writer and art critic. His passions include studying the visual arts, binge watching soccer game summaries, and deciphering the human condition. He publishes art reviews and opinion articles on his website, artandcritique.com.