By Reena Baras
Opened in the fall of 1994, Artspace is located in a charming section of director Linda Zisquit’s private home. The house-turned-gallery is located in Jerusalem’s picturesque German Colony, open to the public two times a week during exhibits or by appointment. Featuring changing exhibitions as well as a permanent display of works, Zisquit focuses on exhibiting works by Israeli artists, including Silvia Bar-am, Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov, Hanna Doukhan, Farideh, Michael Kovner, Naftali Rakuzin, and Jordan Wolfson.
The first exhibition at Artspace came from Israeli artist Pamela Levy. At the time, Levy was showcasing her works at Tel Aviv Museum, but in Artspace Levy’s smaller works were used in order to create a more intimate exhibition. Zisquit, though predominantly a writer of poetry, and a teacher of literature, organically found her way into the position of running an art gallery— it was an act of friendship which coincided with a drive and passion for culture that propelled her into this world.
Israeli art is complex yet compelling, and Linda takes the time to meet and select each artist who will show case in her gallery through her own unique sense of feel and direction. She has created intimate relationships with those artists who work with her, and with that infuses more culture and excitement into the equally compelling art scene in Jerusalem.
CAIJ: Can you explain a bit about the foundations of how your art gallery came to be?
Linda Zisquit: For many years, I would bring my visiting friends to the studios of artist friends. A gesture of friendship that helped introduce people interested in art to the extraordinary art being created here in Jerusalem. Then, I started organizing studio visits to a wider range of artists for small groups. In 1994, after we’d opened a larger space in our German Colony apartment where my husband put his law office, artist-friend Pamela Levy came to talk to him about personal matters.
She was an innovative, highly energetic artist originally from the U.S., about to open a retrospective exhibit of her work at the Tel Aviv Museum. I offered to hang a small exhibit of her paintings in our newly expanded space at the same time. It was an unexpected, organic development, like a good poem.
And that is how Artspace began. At first, I thought it would be a one-time event. But after Pamela Levy’s exhibit, I exhibited work by American-born Jordan Wolfson. Soon after other artists expressed interest in showing here, and I took on the mission of exposing and promoting their work with new shows opening every two months. I was the curator, wall repairer, painting hanger, secretary, gallery manager. At the same time we were raising a large family, and I was writing and teaching poetry as I have continued to do and hope to continue doing for many years.
CAIJ: What challenges have you faced throughout your time running the gallery, and what have you learned from those challenges?
Linda: The challenges presented themselves as the gallery grew. Mainly, time. Given my other commitments I had to manage the gallery in a way that enabled my family to feel privacy in our home, since the public was coming in for several hours three times a week, and hundreds of people gathered for the frequent openings. Many artists approached me, and I could not accommodate all of them.
I took on artists whose work moved my eyes, or my heart, or my brain. In the beginning I agreed to have exhibits for several artist friends from the U.S., France and the U.K. but then I learned over time that my real obligation was to Israeli artists. In the past few years as family needs changed, I have organized fewer shows for longer periods of time, about three exhibits each year.
CAIJ: What new and exciting projects can we expect to see on the horizon?
Linda: The most recent exhibit by Tova Berlinski opened in October to such an enthusiastic response a second exhibit of her work was on display for several months and some of her paintings are still available at Artspace. Tova Berlinski was born in Oswiecim, Poland and came to Palestine in 1938. She celebrated her 103rd birthday several weeks ago.
After a period of renovation in the gallery this summer, new exhibits of work by Silvia Bar-am, Dalia Katav-Arieli and Amos Rabin will follow.
More information and reading on Artspace Gallery: www.artspacegallery
About the author: Born and raised in Silver Spring, MD, Reena Baras moved to Jerusalem in 2015. Reena studied for her BA in early childhood and special education from Montgomery College in Maryland and works as a resource teacher, swim instructor, and freelance artist. In the fall, Reena plans to complete her BA in Liberal Arts at Tel Aviv University.Reena is a contributing journalist for CAIJ.co.