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'The Sylvio Perlstein Collection: From Dada to Now' opens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q, 1919–1964. The Sylvio Perlstein Collection.



TEL AVIV.- The Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents artworks from the collection of Sylvio Perlstein, considered one of the best collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. This is the first time the works are being shown in Israel. Perlstein’s encyclopedic, multifarious collection follows the avant-garde and experimental art movements of the 20th century. It includes an impressive amount of canonic works in various styles: Dada and surrealism, abstract and conceptual art, minimalism, pop art, arte povera and contemporary art. In addition, it includes a body of photographic works rare in its quality and scope, which forms something of a collection within the collection. Many of the artworks in the collection have become iconic representations of 20th century art.

Sylvio Perlstein was born in Belgium and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to where his family fled with the rise of Nazism. In the wake of the war the family returned to Antwerp for several years. Since then Perlstein has been dividing his time between the continents following both his business interests and his passion for art. These trips offered him the opportunity to meet many of the artists whose works form the collection. In Belgium he met René Magritte and the poet-artist Marcel Broodthaers; in New York – Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman and Donald Judd; in Paris – Niki de Saint Phalle, and many others. In the 1970s Perlstein traveled to Tel Aviv specially to meet Marcel Janco, among the founders of Dada. This meeting now allows exhibition visitors to see a rare object created by Janco during the Cabaret Voltaire period. A meeting of extraordinary significance which led to a lifelong friendship happened by chance in the summer of 1969, when Perlstein traveled to see Man Ray’s exhibition in the French town of Saint-Paul de Vence. As fate would have it, on that day there was no one at the gallery except the artist himself. This serendipity led to a deep connection between the two men, with Man Ray becoming Perlstein’s friend and mentor. Thus the exhibition includes oil paintings by Man Ray, on display in Israel for the very first time, along with objects he created during his involvement with the Dada movement.

Asked about his collecting method, Perlstein has said: “Since the 1960s I have been traveling between Europe and the US. I have never set boundaries or conditions for the collection. I find photography from the 1920s and 30s just as fascinating as minimalism and conceptual art, and I collect Dada and surrealist art with the same enthusiasm and curiosity as contemporary art. I particularly like strange, nonconformist works, which challenge me. I am also attracted to works with humor. In Brazil there is a word for this: Esquisito. You would be mistaken to think this has to do with some kind of exquisite character; rather, it means something strange, bizarre, unexpected. There needs to be a twist, some sense of humor or derision, something that challenges your expectations, that shakes your certainties about what art should or could be.”

The exhibition’s title – HEY! DID YOU KNOW THAT ART DOES NOT EXIST… – comes from the text in the work of the French artist Ben, which appears on the red sheet of fabric welcoming visitors entering the museum. The words embody the spirit of the collection, because if art does not exist, it means that anyone and everyone can invent it for themselves. This pronouncement releases viewers from dependence on some “expert” interpretation and allows them to experience the works directly. At the same time, it offers viewers food for thought. This is where the power of both the collection and the exhibition lies: a flirtatious wink at “art history” that is at once amusing and serious.

The artists whose works are included in the exhibition are:

Berenice Abbott, Vito Acconci, Yaacov Agam, Josef Albers, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Carl Andre, Diane Arbus, Arman, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Hans Bellmer, Ben, Alain Bizos, Erwin Blumenfeld, Margaret Bourke-White, Constantin Brâncuși, Bill Brandt, André Breton, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Pol Bury, Andre Cadere, Claude Cahun, Alexander Calder, Kevin Carter, Maurizion Cattelan, César, Paul Citroen, Joseph Cornell, Imogen Cunningham, Salvador Dalí, Niki de Saint Phalle, Braco Dimitrijević, Robert Doisneau, Marcel Duchamp, Nusch Éluard, Paul Éluard Walker Evans, Max Ernst, Dan Flavin, Lucio Fontana, Duane Hanson, Keith Haring, Hannah Höch, Jenny Holzer, Valentine Hugo, Marcel Janco, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Wassily Kandinsky, William Keck, André Kertész, Yves Klein, Barbara Kruger, Sigalit Landau, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, Dora Maar, René Magritte, Marcel Marën, Robert Mangold, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Mario Merz, E. L. T. Mesens, László Moholy-Nagy, Robert Morris, Martin Munkácsi, Bruce Nauman, Méret Oppenheim, Paul Outerbridge, Irving Penn, Sylvio Perlstein, Francis Picabia, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Man Ray, Ad Reinhardt, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Edward Ruscha, Fred Sandback, Lou Scheper-Berkenkamp, Kurt Schwitters, Tino Sehgal, Edward Steichen, Rudolf Stingel, Yves Tanguy, Takis, Jean Tinguely, Cy Twombly, Tunga, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner, Edward Weston

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue in Hebrew and English and an audio guide which includes Perlstein’s recollections of his encounters with the artists on show.










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