Seventy years ago, in 1948, Israel was declared an independent state by David Ben-Gurion. Halfway around the globe that year, the Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach opened its doors. At first thought, the two events might not seem connected. But this week, the Sagamore celebrates the intersecting anniversaries by launching the art exhibit titled "Peace 70."
For Ronit Neuman, hotel partner and co-curator of "Peace 70," the connection is both personal and professional. “I’m an Israeli and an American citizen... so in my heart and soul, I feel that I am an Israeli-American. It is obvious that the 1948 date stuck strongly in my mind. And the Sagamore is an iconic art hotel that’s been here for 70 years on the Beach."
The 70th anniversary is especially noteworthy, Neuman says, because "[the number] 7 in Jewish tradition has a very big numerical significance. According to sages, the world was created in seven days." The idea behind "Peace 70" was to "connect Israel, the number 70, the Sagamore, and art," she adds.
“In South Florida, the Jewish community is a very large community, and a very active and vibrant community. [We thought] this whole idea of representing art and Israel in such a positive voice through art would be of interest to many Jewish organizations and non-Jewish organizations to learn about Israel... We are people of peace, and we create and do fabulous and wonderful things. We thought it would be nice to share that with the community.”
"Peace 70" includes works by 22 established and emerging contemporary Israeli and Israeli-American artists, including Matan Ben Cnaan, Oren Eliav, Dorit Feldman, and Ori Gal. The show consists primarily of two-dimensional works in photography, drawing, painting, illustration, collage, and mixed media. The exhibition opened Thursday evening with a VIP reception attended by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Lior Haiat, the consul general of Israel to Florida. Free and open to the public, "Peace 70" will be on display in the interior of the Sagamore for three months.
The show is also an opportunity to present Israeli artists who are exhibiting internationally for the first time, says Sebastien Laboureau, co-curator of the show and the Sagamore’s resident art adviser. “Most are well known in Israel, but a few have not been able to show yet in the U.S.," he explains. "It was amazing to take the opportunity of the 70th birthday to create partnerships with galleries, museums, and collectors to showcase the diversity of Israeli contemporary art.”
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As Laboureau was installing the show with his team, one artist’s work began drawing a crowd of guests at the Sagamore: Tel Aviv-based illustrator Amit Shimoni’s Hipstory prints. Bathed in candy colors, Shimoni’s works depict popular leaders — such as Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, Israeli politician Shimon Peres, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. — as hipsters.
“[Shimoni’s] works are full of humor and showcase those serious and well-known leaders as hipsters and cool people. We want people to smile when they see their leaders [portrayed] in an unusual way. We want to showcase the friendship and love that exist in the community,” Laboureau says.
“We live in a time when there is peace but a lot of progress to be made in order to make sure we have strength and friendships among all communities. Art is the best vector for peace, for friendship, for love. When there is a problem in the world... artists always have the answer," he continues. "We are all different — have different beliefs and many issues — but when we stand together in front of a work of art, we can experience the same feelings.”
"Peace 70." 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through May 31 at the Sagamore, 1671 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-535-8088; sagamorehotel.com/peace70. Admission is free.