A museum in Israel has removed an artwork by artist David Reeb after it was fiercely criticised by local politicians. The painting Jerusalem had been included in The Institution – the Museum and Israelism, a group show at the newly reopened Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art, but soon drew the ire of Carmel Shama-Hacohen, the mayor of Ramat Gan, a city in Tel Aviv district.
The artwork, made in 1997, is divided into four squares, two of which show a Haredim orthodox Jewish man praying at the Western Wall. A third panel is captioned ‘Jerusalem is Gold’, a reference to a 1967 song by Naomi Shemer that celebrates the Six-Day War and the capture of old Jerusalem. The last panel of Reeb’s painting decrees however that ‘Jerusalem is Shit’.
‘It deals with the sentimentalization of prayer next to the Western Wall, which along with the song ‘Jerusalem of Gold’, has served as a device for taking over land from 1967 to the present day,’ Reeb told Haaretz.
Shama-Hacohen, who represents Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that the painting was an insult and that the local authorities had not funded the refurbishment of the museum so that it might ‘expose its children and others to gutter language.’
After a complaint by Reeb, backed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a court in Tel Aviv backed the museum board. The artist now says he wishes to remove his other works from the show, a move that other exhibitors say they will follow.