Monday, February 20th, 2012

“O Jerusalem!” Auction Set to Save Jerusalem Studio School From Financial Ruin

This article was first published October 26, 2011. The live auction event to benefit the Jerusalem Studio School takes place Tuesday, February 21, 6 to 8 pm at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, 208 Forsyth Street, New York City.

A student at work in the Jerusalem Studio School Hall of Casts.  Courtesy of the Jerusalem Studio School
A student at work in the Jerusalem Studio School Hall of Casts. Courtesy of the Jerusalem Studio School

“When thou art made desolate, what wilt thou do?” These are the words of the prophet Jeremiah, addresses to Jerusalem on the eve of its Babylonian destruction.  The Jerusalem Studio School is modern-day Israel’s only classically oriented institution where teaching is based on drawing from casts, from life and – in summer expeditions to Certosa, Italy – in the Tuscan campagna.  It suddenly found itself earlier this year on the brink of fiscal apocalypse.

Founder-director Israel Hershberg discovered, over the summer, that not only had the school’s executive director disappeared (he was soon discovered to have suffered a breakdown and to have been placed under hospital care) but that the school – a relatively modest operation headquartered in an industrial estate in the vicinity of the city’s railway station – suddenly had a deficit of $450,000.  They had never been in the red before. As recently as March the director of the board, who has since resigned, assured Hershberg that the soon-to-abscond officer was “saving the school” with his innovative leadership.

In name the Jerusalem Studio School, founded in 1998, recalls the New York Studio School but shares its stylistically and pedagogically more traditionalist outlook with the New York Academy of Fine Art.  Within its short history it has already graduated a significant number of accomplished painters with international reputations, the most illustrious probably being the Romanian realist, Victor Man.

Israel Hershberg at work in his studio. Courtesy of the Jerusalem Studio School
Israel Hershberg at work in his studio. Courtesy of the Jerusalem Studio School

The school offers a traditionalist alternative to Israel’s mainstream, established art academies such as Bezalel, also in Jerusalem; the art faculty of the Holon Institute of Technology outside of Tel Aviv; or the teacher training college in Ramat Hasharon.   Hershberg – whose own serene landscapes and intense portraits of trees are strongly evocative of Corot – places insistence on rigorous, exacting study of the old masters.  He has earned himself the reputation of a charismatic educator.  Visiting Americans who have taught alongside him include Lennart Anderson, John Dubrow, Diana Horowitz, Ken Kewley, Ruth Miller, Stuart Shils, Kelly Wilson and Jennifer Riley.  The School is also a magnet of distinguished visiting lecturers, attracting Philip Pearlstein recently in a packed event.

The fight back against financial oblivion is well under way, according to Hershberg, who managed to raise a significant portion of the funds needed to allow the school to begin its academic year after the Jewish holidays this October.

And now a group of American supporters have plans under way for a benefit event to be held at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects in New York City.  The benefit is scheduled for November 22 with an auction, with online bidding opening ahead of the event.  Artists who have donated to the auction so far include Philip Pearlstein, whose lecture at the Jerusalem school was reported at artcritical earlier this year, as well as Stanley Lewis, Sangram Majumdar, Kyle Staver, Ruth Miller and her late husband, Andrew Forge, E.M. Saniga, Kurt Knobelsdorf, Gideon Bok, Ken Kewley, Paul Resika, Stuart Shils, Janice Nowinski, and Lennart Anderson.

Hopefully, next time artcritical reports on this story the article will open with a quote from the Song of Songs and not the Book of Lamentations.

Stuart Shils, Apartment Houses Near Siena, 2011.  Oil on prepared paper mounted on board, 10 x 14 inches.  Courtesy of Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York and the Artist.
Stuart Shils