Letter of Concern from Sergio Edelsztein, Director, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
To Whom It May Concern:
I am the founder and director of the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. About two years ago, I was proposed by the British Council in Israel to curate a show on Northern Irish Art for the Herzelyia Museum of Contemporary Art. The show, in the end, was titled “Belfast Ways” and took place between March and May 2005 featuring the works of ten Belfast-based young artists. This exhibition was central to a wider strategy initiated by the BC to bring closer together Northern Ireland and Israel artistic communities, as being both living in a situation of conflict and creating out and into it.
For the show in Herzelyia I made a research trip to Belfast, and while everyone I met there was helpful and collaborating, the help I got from the Ormeau Baths Gallery and its staff was the most useful both intellectually and logistically. Hugh Mulholland was one of my main referents in Belfast, and his advice was of great importance to me. For the time I was in Belfast OBG became my “office”, where I could meet artists and view their work. It was my impression that having the backing of OBG was a guarantee of seriousness from my part towards the local artists. I was impressed from the way the artists related to OBG as their own “home” and frame of reference.
Since November this year, the CCA in Tel Aviv finally got a building from the Tel Aviv Municipality, and in the program and activities we make, we struggle to achieve that same feeling of belonging and collaboration I saw at OBG.
From the point of view of my experience with OBG and the role it played in my project, it is my feeling that any future policy of internationalizing Northern Ireland art will be greatly jeopardized. While in Belfast, I saw and met just about everyone in the art world, and there is no institution in sight that could play such an important role in this arena. The closure of OGB will bring to an ostracizing of Northern Irish Art from the international scene. I’m sure this is not the intention of the Arts Council; therefore I call upon you to reconsider this step, reopen OBG and reinstate its staff re-define its mission and increase its budget.
Failure to do so will result in immediate and long term damage for the artists living an working in Northern Ireland’s careers and will send the message of backwardness and isolation that is nowhere to be found in the artistic creation of Northern Ireland.
The Center for Contemporary Art
Tel Aviv, Israel