Menashe Kadishman, a name known far beyond the borders of Israel.
Since the death of Menashe Kadishman in May 2015, his portraits of sheep heads – a salient hallmark of the artist –, sometimes several to a painting, can be seen in nearly every gallery in the country. However, almost 10 years ago, they were unilaterally withdrawn from all Israeli gallery windows. At that time it was said that there were lot of fakes in circulation in Israel, so Kadishman decided to allow none of his paintings onto the Israeli art market for five full years.
And yet Kadishman himself says that his artistic career actually didn’t begin with sheep, but with the tree. He painted one outside the building of the Israel Museum of Jerusalem on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary. Despite this, his art was not met with immediate recognition and success. Yet the young artist did not allow this to deter him and he continued experimenting with the theme of nature and art by exhibiting decorated trees or sculptures in the middle of a forest. There were artistic examples in the middle of the « forest » in Montevideo, Uruguay, or in Central Park in New York. With his « negative trees » he took this a step farther, exhibiting them at Lake Berta (Bertasee) in Duisburg, Germany.
In later years Menashe Kadishman moved from the tree or forest to the leaf. His art installation, which he entitled “Shalechet” (Fallen Leaves), however, consists of metal discs, which, like Munch’s “The Scream” represent a face with its mouth wide open. One of these installations is located in one of the empty spaces in the Libeskind building of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Over 10,000 faces cut from heavy, round iron plates cover the ground. They are intended to remind us of the innocent victims of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Menashe was born in 1932 in Tel Aviv, Palestine, then still a mandated territory of Great Britain’s. Kadishman saw himself as a pioneer and accordingly became a shepherd on a kibbutz. He began his artistic career as a sculptor with Rudi Lehmann and Moshe Sternschuss.
He later moved to London, where he continued his education at Central Saint Martins and the Slade School of Fine Art. He remained in England for 12 years, where he exhibited for the first time. His sculptures were crude and clunky, which was Kadishman’s way of conveying the Israel of his time.
Many other exhibitions followed throughout the Americas and in Europe even after his return to Israel. He represented his country at the Documenta in Kassel (1968) and at the Venice Biennale, where we are back with the sheep again. He transformed his stand there into a stable and brought it to life with real flesh and blood sheep.
In 1995 he was awarded the Israel Prize.