July 26, 2021

Dani Karavan, Israeli artist with monumental sculptures, is dead

Monumental and nevertheless respectful of nature, acclimatized to the Beersheba desert in Israel or to a Nara forest in Japan, the works of the Israeli artist Dani Karavan are installed at the ends of the world as if they had always been there. Its unique geometry can be recognized in the heart of Berlin, near the Brandenburg Gate, where the artist designed the monument recalling the massacre by the Nazis of 500,000 Gypsies. In France too, the man with the sparkling eye had imagined over nearly thirty years, from 1980 to 2008, the Major Axis, an urban promenade of more than 3 kilometers in twelve bright red stations that have become the emblem of Cergy- Pontoise (Val-d’Oise).

A past master in art in public space, Dani Karavan has managed to reconcile monumentality and human scale. His work did not need to be understood to be loved. As ascetic as they were, his sculptures had the power to attract amateurs and onlookers alike, without ever imposing themselves. Dani Karavan died in Tel Aviv on May 29, at the age of 90, at the end of a prolific career, crowned in 1998 by the prestigious Praemium Imperiale, a sort of Nobel Prize for art awarded by Japan to the most eminent plastic artists of the whole world.

Read also (archive from 2008): Israeli artist of German remembrance

“His life is the very example of the balance advocated by Giacometti, one foot in the past and one foot in the future”, underlines her gallery owner, Véronique Jaeger, who greets “The energy, dynamism and tenacity which characterized it until the last breath”.

Born on December 7, 1930, in Tel Aviv, to a Polish couple who had migrated to Israel ten years earlier, Dani Karavan may have inherited his vocation from his father, a landscape architect and pioneer of the Hebrew State, responsible for the development of Tel Aviv, a city marked by the spirit of the Bauhaus. Young Sabra, he studied painting in his hometown then at the Bezalel School of Fine Arts in Jerusalem, before setting up his studio at Kibbutz Harel, of which he was one of the founders in 1948.

Humanist close to the Israeli left

In 1956, he left for Florence to study frescoes for a year, continued his training at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, before going to create a set for a choreography by Martha Graham in New York. Back in Tel Aviv, he participated in the founding of the Batsheva dance company, and was especially noted for the bas-relief that adorns the Knesset, the Israeli national assembly, completed in 1966. In 1968, he received the commission for a monument in the desert, commemorating the memory of the members of the Negev brigade who fell during the 1948 war. Its purpose, as reported by the Jerusalem Post : « Create a place where everyone will like to come for the pleasure of discovery and, so that through the landscape and the introspection it arouses, they can feel an experience. I want children to come here to play and for memory to come together with life. “

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