There are several aspects of Tel Aviv’s Litvak Gallery that makes it unique. One of the most unusal is that it charges admission to the public. While the entrance fee of 48 shekels (about US $13) is waived for serious clients, some days bring hundreds of paying visitors, many of whom are seeing glass sculpture for the first time.
“People are considering it much more seriously when they pay,” explained its owner Muly Litvak, a successful Internet entrepreneur, art collector, and gallery owner who may already be familiar to visitors of SOFA CHICAGO who may have seen his lavish exhibition booths in 2008 and 2009. “We also offer audio tours and have three docents.”
Litvak told GLASS during an interview in New York that the number of paying visitors was a pleasant surprise. Some may be drawn by Litvak Gallery’s location next door to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, to which it is connected via a second-floor footbridge. Others no doubt are coming thanks to the buzz generated by the gallery opening.
For the opening party on December 17th, 2009, Litvak took over the Museum Tower’s downstairs lobby, where a quartet from the Israeli Symphony, an opera singer, and some of Israel’s top pop singers took turns serenading the crowd of hundreds who were feasting on lavish offerings of gourmet food and wine. In the gallery itself, one floor above the reception, the doors opened at 10 PM and the Israeli elite with some American and European visitors had their first opportunity to experience the sculpture of 23 major glass artists from the U.S. and Europe in such a setting.
The Litvak Gallery ceilings soar to nearly 20 feet overhead, computer-controlled lighting systems strategically target light to best illuminate each individual work, and the massive floorspace gives each piece a museum-like presentation, which is underscored by the understated but unmistakeably luxurious interior architecture that has made architect Asaf Gottesman sought-after by some of the wealthiest private clients in Europe and Israel.
Litvak says that the proper setting is critical to introducing high-level art made from glass to the Israeli public who might not be aware of the significant work being done in this material. But to Muly, his sizable investment in his Tel Aviv gallery space is important even outside the country. “I have no doubt that this will have some impact in the way that people generally and the art world specifically will relate to the Studio Glass movement,” he says. “Everything I’m trying to do is in support of this.”
Even the exhibition catalog represents a sizeable investment. It offers 200 pages of coffee-table sized heft, text in both English and Hebrew and an essay by Yale University’s Steven Henry Madoff on issues of beauty after Duchamp. The exhibition featured the work of Howard Ben Tré, Peter Bremers, Lucio Bubacco, José Chardiet, Dale Chihuly, Václav Cigler, Daniel Clayman, Steffen Dam, Richard Jolley, Joey Kirkpatrick & Flora Mace, Vladimír Kopecký, Dante Marioni, Tobias Mǿhl, William Morris, Štěpán Pala, Zora Palová, Jaromír Rybák, Davide Salvadore, Lino Tagliapietra, Bertil Vallien, Julius Weiland, Ann Wolff, and Jiřina Žertovà
One of the Americans in attendance was SOFA’s Mark Lyman who, upon being asked for his impressions, answered: “There are a lot of superlatives.” Lyman, who called the gallery space “ethereal,” said “on an international level, the bar has been raised significantly for the presentation of work in glass media.” Norman Sandler, collector, Pilchuck board member and an architect who Litvak hired to design his SOFA booths as well as consult on the interior architecture of his gallery said “I don’t think there’s anything in the U.S. that’s comparable. It’s a unique combination of education and artistic appreciation.”
Litvak says he has many requests to extend the opening group exhibition past its March closing date, but he already has his next exhibition planned, a solo show for German glass sculptor Ann Wolff.
Despite his obvious appreciation for glass both as a collector and dealer, Litvak does not rule out other kinds of exhibitions.
“I refuse to define it as a glass gallery. I would say we represent the leading artists, including the leading artists working in glass,” Litvak says.
IF YOU GO:Litvak Gallery Museum Tower 4 Berkowitz Street Tel Aviv, Israel Website: www.litvak.com