Thursday, March 6, 2008

International Street Artists Add (More) Multicultural Sauce to Israeli Society

"The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within. Culture of the mind must be subservient to the heart so individual freedom will naturally grow from self-determined activity." (Idiot The Wise)

It appears that the paintings of world's hottest British art star Banksy on the Palestinian side of the separation wall in the West Bank in summer 2005 were just the tip of the iceberg. Street art and graffiti scenes gain strong International momentum in Israel recently. Much of this trend is attributed to talented immigrants from former U.S.S.R. countries while there are also many active street artists in Israel who immigrated from European countries and North America.

As opposed to the Banksy case (above) and perhaps to what you may expect from street art in Israel, most of the street art messages are not related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but to internal society issues, while others refer to the conflict in a general, none-confronting approach. Some look at graffiti and street art as a form of vandalism. Others see it as a legitimate way of expression in a world where most public urban space belongs to commercial cooperates. This way or another, the new trend spices up the already heterogenic society in Israel with more multicultural sauce. Following are a few recent outstanding examples.

The Legal Action Gallery and Cosco Urban Lab

There are clear signs that Israeli street art is going mainstream. Take the 2nd Annual Inspiration Art Exhibition opened today (March 6, 2008) in the Legal Action gallery for example. Featuring the work of 100 street artists from around the globe, this spectacular exhibition curated by The Inspire Collective takes place next to the Casco Urban Lab in Florentine - at the heart of the "Soho" quarter in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Legal Action gallery was founded by artists Jamie Ame and Joy van Erven in October last year and features top street artists from Israel and other countries such as Klone, Know Hope, Zero Cents, Jove, Mi-Shee, Mimi the Clown, TigaPics, Azione, Booty, x10art, Sanko17, Sumone, Omino17, iamunknown and even the only street artist we know of in Iran (yes, Iran) who goes by the name of A1one. Check on this audio visual tour of the 1st annual Inspiration Art Exhibition that took place at Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem in the spring of 2007. Here are two "sneaky previews" from this year:

Ame (35) and van Erven are two living indications for the new trend. Ame, better known as Ame72, is a British origin street and graffiti artist who has been living in Israel in the past three years. He is known in Tel Aviv streets for his use of Lego stencils which "represent thought provoking and funny images of life in today's society". Ame's partner, Joy van Erven, is an experienced Dutch mixed media artist who initiated various crossover projects involving visual arts, architecture and urbanism. Before immigrating to Israel in 2004, he initiated a foundation for public space art in the Netherlands and was the curator of other art exhibitions and urban art projects.

van Erven is also the owner of the Casco Urban Lab in Tel Aviv (above), another alternative culture establishment that combines art, design and food. Casco (Dutch word for "undefined space") allows local artists, designers and performers representing their view of the city.


Above: progress shots from a painting by klone (formerly known as street artist 'Make') made for a group exhibition opening next week March 10, 2008 at the Dweck gallery in Mishkanot Sheananim, Jerusalem. Below is a spectacular panoramic wall piece, collaborated by klone and jesus.

More from Klone at

Inspire - Idiot the Wise

After finding himself alone and homeless in the cold streets of Chicago when he was just 16, Inspire (31) grew himself up to become an International known artist. He immigrated to Israel 5 years ago and his works are well known in Tel Aviv streets.

Other than being the curator of the 2nd Annual Inspiration Art Exhibition mentioned above, Idiot the Wise has been documenting public art and activism in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the last five years. Being an active cyberspace artist, though, his connections and collaborations go way beyond the borders of Israel. Idiot the Wise (aka SEVEN, INSPIRE, Exodus and TRY) is a "writer of divine names, painter of flowers, public artist and curator" who argues we have been force fed with "false hope and ideals" through "branded advertising that invades our private lives until the two become one".

His Flickr group ArtAttack "urges you to react to your environment" and "talk back" yet emphasizing this is not an act of "war on advertising" but more of an "inside joke" meant to "rattle things a bit" so that people can "start noticing things for themselves again". Idiot the Wise is also the founder of many other popular Flickr groups such as the INSPIRE Collective ("What inspires YOU?" 2,147 Members) and MiddleEastStreetArt (Middle Eastern Graffiti, Street Art, and Public Activism, 942 members).

For more about Inspire check on this interview by Mr. Z or any of the following:

Zero Cents

This 22 years old dude immigrated to Israel from New Jersey, USA a few years ago and is already a prominent figure in Israel's street art scene.

Above: "Old woman feeding birds", one of 10 wood cutout installations in 2nd Annual Inspiration Art Exhibition.

Above: Safta (Hebrew for "grandmother"), portrait of Zero Cent's grandmother (photo by nush). Below: banso: detail of a wall by Zero Cents, produced mid 2007. For more walls as well as installations, paintings stickers and paper pain art go to

This is Limbo

Above: "Haven been overcome by tongue-tied times, minor orchestras mend together the tune and in a clumsy accent play: please believe", Cardboard and gauze bandages on cement, Bethlehem Separation Wall 2007. More from This is Limbo at


A wall

More street art from aifo2 at For more information and articles about urban street art and graffiti around the world see WebUrbanist - the ultimate source for International urban culture.


  1. Hello,

    Great to see this coverage of the Israeli street art scene--I'm hoping they can really get recognized as the talent there is incredible. I met some of these guys when I was there in January and got a ton of pictures:

    I've set up a flickr group for the crew to which some of the above artists belong, "SMD":

    Also, the artist under "This Is Limbo" also goes by "Know Hope"...


  2. 'just found this. I really enjoyed reading it. I will be exhibiting quite a few Israeli-based street artists (including those you mention) at the Abrons Arts Center in NYC in July and August. The press release will be ready soon. Lois Stavsky

  3. Yes , maybe before look at this ugly scene, look at tha real graffiti artist living in tel aviv , and brings this culture in israel,

    graffiti is a positiv mouvement not a tool to speak about politics ....

    inspire put a lot of shit in jerusalem , don't speak hebrew, and a lot of israelian scene feel that this street art crew dont like their state.... they speaking about peace put their works are realy narcicik and simple (without speaking about their style that copying bansky all the time ) .

    It s a real wrong scene that "underground" but you see them in all holes of internet and news paper!!

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