It’s not often that an artist would invite members of the public to participate in his exhibit or that a respected museum would allow visitors to draw and paint on its walls.
However, this is exactly what Pawel Althamer arranged for the “Draftsmen's Congress,” which was part of his solo exhibit, “The Neighbors,” at Manhattan’s New Museum.
Members of Art Kibbutz, an international Jewish artist colony, assembled on March 23 to draw and paint Jewish responses to Althamer’s exhibit.
Throughout “The Neighbors,” the New Museum’s fourth floor was open to the public to draw and paint at will, with materials provided by the museum. Following the show’s closing last week, the museum distributed portions of the collectively made artwork to visitors for free.
Art Kibbutz NY was founded in 2010 by Patricia Eszter Margit. They are currently recruiting artists to participate in FIGMENT, a project on Governor’s Island that will take place in June.
Althamer, a contemporary artist from Poland, combines sculpture and social collaboration in his artistic practice. In addition to his sculptures, videos, and the “Draftsmen's Congress,” Althamer arranged for street musicians to play in front of the museum over the course of the show with the music broadcast throughout his exhibit. Althamer also initiated a coat drive for the Bowery Mission, an organization near the museum that has helped the homeless for over 100 years.
He invited Art Kibbutz to provide “Jewish responses” to the question of how art can create dialogue and community.
To prepare its team of participants, Art Kibbutz invited Michael Somoroff, an artist and kabbalah teacher as well as Rabbi Naftali Citron of the Carlebach Shul to help the artists “create a common language that would enable our group to give ‘Jewish responses’ to Pawel Althamer's call,” said Margit. The group discussed how they could artistically explore a sentiment that they feel is reflected in Althamer's work, "Loving your fellow as yourself," and use it as a springboard for their “Jewish response.”
Caroline Lagnado is an arts writer in New York.