The art is instead loosely-grouped according to its aesthetic content — paintings and sculpture related to the land fill one room, for instance, while pieces more focused on water and sky fill another. The resulting selection, which is expected to remain in place for several years, juxtaposes contemporary artists with the long dead, painters with sculptors, and religious Jews with secular Arabs.
“Israeli art was preoccupied with its identity from the beginning,” Dr. Matatyahu said. Throughout the history of Israeli art, she added, artists and curators have wondered, “What is Israeli about art? What is Israeli art?”
“I’m trying to get out of this narrative,” she added.
By prioritizing artistic content above artistic reputation, Dr. Matatyahu has omitted some of the biggest names in the Israeli canon, like Menashe Kadishman and Micha Ullman, and sometimes selected lesser-known works of the canonical artists who still made the cut.
More than a quarter of the work on display had not been shown in the museum before. Forty-one of the artists are women, about a third more than in the previous incarnation of the permanent collection. And while the show does not make a point of prioritizing work by Israel’s Arab minority, some of whom do not wish to have their work displayed in Israeli institutions, the number of Arab artists is still higher than before.