Legendary Israeli Artist Now Wants His Work Covered Up

Dani Karavan is angry about the marginalization of the arts.

Israeli artist Dani Karavan poses on March 13, 2008 in front of his installation "No Way Out." Courtesy of MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images.

Most artists want their work shown, not covered up. But Israeli artist Dani Karavan is calling for his giant stone relief adorning the chamber of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to be taken down.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem (1966) is one of Israel’s best-known artworks and is installed on the southern wall of the Knesset assembly hall.

“We now have one of the most right-wing governments. And I have a feeling that the wall doesn’t belong there anymore,” Karavan told Deutschlandfunk. “I can’t remove it. It’s too heavy and doesn’t belong to me. But I ask that the relief be covered until the government of my homeland returns to the basis of the declaration of independence.”

Karavan—a sculptor best known for his site-specific memorials and monuments—is among the most outspoken critics of the Israeli government. Recently he was angered by a law under which a majority of parliamentarians may exclude an elected fellow member, a law which the 86-year-old artist considers undemocratic.

He also criticized the recent NGO law, which he says stigmatizes human rights activists. Karavan himself is a member of Yesh Din, an Israeli non-profit that provides legal assistance to Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset, Israel's Parliament. Karavan's relief is in the background. Photo: JIM HOLLANDER/AFP/Getty Images.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. Karavan’s relief is in the background. Photo: JIM HOLLANDER/AFP/Getty Images.

The political polarization of the country has galvanized Israel’s art and culture scene. Novelists such as David Grossman and Amos Oz, the writer and actress Gila Almagor, have questioned the direction in which the country is headed.

In January, culture minister Miri Regev proposed legislation to cut funding to “disloyal” arts groups, provoking outrage among Israel’s intelligentsia. “Freedom of speech and the freedom of artistic creativity are pillars of democracy. Only dark regimes do something like this,” actress Almagor said in a TV interview earlier this year.

However, Regev and other members of the conservative government continue to denounce the “leftist elite.”

Israeli artist Dani Karavan poses on March 13, 2008 on a railtrack part of his installation "Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs" during the presentation of his exhibition "Dani Karavan Retrospective" running from March 14 to June 01 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin. Courtesy of MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images.

Dani Karavan poses on part of his installation “Homage to the Prisoners of Gurs” during the presentation of his exhibition “Dani Karavan Retrospective” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin. Courtesy of MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images.

“Look how many Nobel laureates there are. And the number of authors that have been translated into different languages. And artists, musicians, scientists—that’s the elite,” Karavan told Deutschlandfunk. “This is insane.”


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