From Grit to Grace: A Tel Aviv Gallery Creates Tranquil Space Amid Urban Chaos

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At first glance Hapelech Street, which runs through a gritty industrial area in south Tel Aviv on the grimy border with Jaffa, seems an unlikely destination for artists and art lovers. But the highly-regarded Gordon Gallery, founded 51 years ago in central Tel Aviv, recognized that the neighborhood was evolving into a new artistic community and it should have a presence there.

This would be the third location for the Gordon Gallery. The first gallery represented the Avant Garde in Israeli art and helped build prestigious collections in Israel and abroad. Today it focuses on fine art and video installations and the nearby Gordon Gallery 2 houses special projects. According to Michal Freedman, gallery director, one of the goals of the new gallery is to create a dialogue between Israeli and international contemporary artists.

Exterior view of Gordon Gallery. Courtesy Elad Sarig

Rather than joining other galleries and studios in an existing art complex, the Gordon Gallery commissioned Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture, based in Israel and France, for a design that would suit its own specifications and needs.

The architects were asked to transform a single large workshop space that shared three of its four walls with carpentry workshops and a zipper factory — a challenge that required them to balance the twin demands of altering and preserving the structure.  The firm’s principal objective was to set the stage for the unexpected. Asaf Gottesman, one of the firm’s two co-founders, says that the goal was to create “a void that is not empty, a series of walls that are not boundaries, a pure idea that is not isolated, an enclosure that opens the mind and elevates the spirit.”

On the building’s narrow front façade the architects created a large upper translucent window to let the northern light into the space “but it still filters somehow, the existing urban chaos of the outside street,” adds Ami Szmelcman, the other founding principal of the firm.

Interior view of Gordon Gallery. Courtesy Elad Sarig

The architects used a gap between two parts of the roof to create a light well – they call it a”sculpted” prismatic slit – to allow natural daylight to both penetrate and reflect throughout the day, keeping the gallery in tune with the ambient light outside. “The simplicity of the space enables the exposed art to express itself and surprise,” says Szmelcman.  

The new gallery opened in early December 2016 with “Strong Currents,” a show by NY-based duo, Faile. The currently exhibition is a group exhibition from the Gallery Collection and a Louise Bourgeois exhibition is scheduled to open this September.

Asked what was most pleasing about the new gallery, Szmelcman replied, “Probably the tranquility and simplicity of the space. The fine details of the steelworks, and the strong contrast of the white monolithic facade with the existing noisy grey and messy adjacent industrial street facades.”