Zvi Golstein at S.M.A.K.

In 2016 S.M.A.K. – The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art Ghent (Belgium) dedicated a large exhibition to Zvi Goldstein, a Jewish artist with Romanian roots.

Born in 1947 in Cluj-Napoca, to a Jewish-Hungarian family, Zvi Goldstein emigrated to Israel with his family, in 1958. From 1966 to 1969 he studied at The Bezalel Art and Design Academy in  Jerusalem, and from 1969 to 1972, at the Academia de Belle Arte di Brera, Milano, Italy. Until 1978, he took some study trips to Europe and USA. From 1981, Zvi Goldstein got a position as a lector professor, and later on as a full  professor at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In 2013 he got the Emet Prize, for  ”Culture and Art”, Sculpture.

Zvi Goldstein. © en.emetprize.org


Zvi Goldstein has had a big number of solo shows in Israel, Germany, France, Holland, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia; he has participated to group exhibits in Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, Turkey, Brazil, Switzerland, China, Holland, Israel. His works are in public collections in Israel, Germany, France, Switzerland, USA. He got numerous prizes and scholarships for his artistic activity: The Sandberg Prize of the Museum of Israel, 1984; The Mies van der Rohe Scholarship, Krefeld, Germania, 1985; Aaron Levi Prize of the Museum of Israel, 1984; The Education Ministry of Israel Prize; D.A.A.D. Berliner Scholarship, Berlin, Germany, 1990; Lennon-Ono Peace Scholarship, New York, 2002.

Black Box, 1991 (Black Hole Constructions series), The Kunstmuseum Krefeld Courtesy, Germany

A Pioneer of Contemporary Art Concepts

From the ’70, Zvi Goldstein has defined his artistic concepts following the conceptual art tradition, mixing text, photography, video, audio, objects, and he realized performances and installations, by taking a direct aiming at the socio-historical and political phenomena he witnessed. On the same time, after his return to Israel, in 1978, Zvi Goldstein did an overwhelming work load to bring to the light some Contemporary Art concepts which were pushed to the side by the occidental world from the historical point of view. As a young student in Milano, at the beginning of the ’70, Zvi Goldstein played an active role on the scene of European conceptual art until 1978, when totally unhappy with the modern and post-modern direction of the European Art, he left Italy and went to Jerusalem. In this area, situated between Europe and the periphery of the Middle East and Africa, Golstein has built a true artistic and intellectual habitat.

Jüdische Chronologies, 1996, Daniel Marzona Courtesy, Berlin & Broadway, New York, USA.

In the same time, with this geographical change, Goldstein has developed an artistic strategy applicable to the Third World countries, combining objects and text in some installations which are a remainder of the Russian Constructivism. From this moment, in Goldstein’s works we find tendencies of Western contemporary art incorporated in a context taken from the world, which would become his new house. His artworks were based on a assiduous study of o premodern traditions from Asia Minor, Middle East and Africa (regions which the artist visited regularly), making associations between monastic communities and the societies found at the limits of the modern influences.

Distance and Differences Exhibition

Distance and Differences exhibit shows Zvi Goldstein’s unique artistic path, which has incorporated a multitude of concepts taken from climate, botany, ethnography or eschatology, as metaphors of some peripheral cultural backgrounds named by the artist himself Emergency Societies. The Exhibit is opened by a map-diagram of the artist concept from 1978 under the form of Methodologies, diagram which has fixed the six directions on which is based his whole work: Serial Constructions (1978-2013), Black Hole Constructions (1990-1999), Perfect Worlds. Possible Worlds. (1954-2012), Anomalies (1986-1987), E.T.N.O. (1979-2014), Botanology (1986-2010). Golstein artwork is defined by these six series as an isolated whole, a distinct history existing in an autarchic world and, the artist is realizing an auto-periodization of his plastic approach through the call to the external forms and interpretations of his work.

Wedding, 1995 (E.T.N.O. series), The Israel Museum Jerusalem Courtesy.


There is Another Third World

At the opening of his exhibit, Zvi Goldstein’s artistic approach is explained through his written texts in Jerusalem on the 10th of July 1989:


(Against Primitivism)

Your Modernity is no less picturesque than my primitivism.

In fact, the Other is not necessarily Indian, African or Lebanese, but can also be American, German or British. We are all subjects and viewers at the same time, “exotic” in terms of curiosity and fascination. This inverted perspective expresses the rebellion of the metaphor against its meaning, the rebellion of the Third World as an exotic object of desire against its primitivistic sign.

While the discourse of modernity was monopolized by the West, the Third World never copyrighted its own cultural image against exploitation and false interpretation. The conflict between archaism and local cultures contaminated by derivative modernism was not perceived in the Third World as an uncompleted Habermasian concept, but more as a futuristic, science-fiction possibility, which has been shifted geographically and culturally.


Deep Mythologies, 1992 (seria Botanology), Hauser & Wirth Collection, Henau, Germay


The Installation Room 205  

The labels’ texts are seen as part of the artwork and are underlying the theoretical and ideological concepts of his plastic horizon. The installation Room 205 – The Voices (2011) was realized after the publishing of his poem Room 205 (Koln, 2010). Room 205 is recreating a minute of the artist’s delirium, in room 205 in a Tel Aviv hotel, between 9:25 and 9:26. This sensation is represented through a cubical interior, reconstructing the atmosphere of a cave with incrusted speakers on its walls, which are broadcasting sixty-two verses from the poem, meant to introduce the viewer into a hallucinate and unreal world.

Room 205 – The Voices, 2011 (Perfect Worlds, Possible Worlds series), Daniel Marzona Courtesy, Berlin & Broadway, New York, USA.

Before this poem, Zvi Goldstein published On Paper (Köln, 2004), a collection of reflections with different themes – autobiography, philosophy, war, art theory – which were translating his life style, situated at the junction of different cultures. In the opening of the volume On Paper, the author tells about his interrogation by the Secret Service of Ciad agents who accused him of spying during his first trip to Africa. His answer defined his artistic believe, in his try to make the agents to let him go, Goldstein has formulated a true artistic manifest:


Therefore, there are no distinctions

in my artistic work

among the different Modernist categories:







Measurements, 1992 (Perfect Worlds, Possible Worlds series), Daniel Marzona Courtesy, Berlin & Broadway, New York, USA.

Zvi Goldstein’s artworks are not ready-made, nor sculptures, they are unique formulations of his concept about the world. The object around which his sculptures are built is “broken” from his initial environment and used to rebuilt an artistic, intellectual and singular universe. Zvi Goldstein is taking the contemporary art to an unfamiliar territory, his works reveal the world’s hybrid nature, the fluid inconsistency of things, an identities’ infinite. Somehow the public is confronted with situations where the space and time doesn’t look determinate.

Future, 1989-1995 (Perfect Worlds, Possible Worlds series), Daniel Marzona Courtesy, Berlin & Broadway, New York, USA.

Author: Silvia SUCIU

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