In conversation with Tania Coen-Uzzielli, Director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Tania Coen-Uzzielli, director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art recently spoke to Shifting Vision about the reciprocal relationship between the institution and its public, and how the pandemic pushed the museum to stretch its boundaries.
‘The Tel Aviv Museum of Art was founded nearly 90 years ago. Tel Aviv is a modern city, and part of the foundation of the state of Israel,’ Coen-Uzzielli said. ‘The museum was launched by the first mayor, Meir Dizengoff in 1932, who felt he could not build a city without a cultural institution.’
‘The name “Tel Aviv Museum of Art” is actually kind of an obstacle. Tel Aviv, a great city, is sometimes perceived as excessively liberal. This creates barriers. Museums are not always the most accessible institutions, and art is something often thought of as only for high-society people. I am always thinking how I can invite people to enter the museum and show them that they can be part of this institution — that they are participants, collaborators, and partners. This is the new paradigm that I have adopted when thinking about the museum and its relationship with the public.’
Coen-Uzzielli is pushing for public initiatives to bring the museum outside and make it more accessible. For example, ‘Through a Balcony’ projected videos of works from the collection onto Tel Aviv buildings. At the same time, she said, ‘ I want people to understand that if they want to experience art, they have to disconnect a bit from everyday life.’ She calls this ‘museum mode’, likening it to switching to airplane mode on one’s phone.
‘When thinking about the museum I am thinking about modern and contemporary art globally. I am thinking about displaying it, but also contextualizing it in the local place and exploring how the Israeli art showcased here is interconnected with international art.’
‘I do think that to ‘think local’ is to understand what the global art story is, and to tell it locally. Not because I am using a different language, but because I am interpreting local art through the prism of the global.’
With special thanks to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.