Ilit Azoulay: Transferumbau- Liebling

Liebling Haus - White City Center

September 19, 2019 – April 30, 2020

Transferumbau: Liebling

The opening exhibition of The Liebling Haus – White City Center focuses on the controversial Transfer Agreements that established economic relations between the Nazi regime in Germany and the Zionist movement, allowing tens of thousands of German Jews to emigrate to Palestine in the 1930s.

Artists: Ilit Azoulay, Jonathan Touitou, Lou Moriah, Nir Shauloff

Curator: Hila Cohen-Schneiderman

The transfer agreements were signed in 1933 between the Nazi authorities in Germany and the Zionist movement in Israel, and ended with the outbreak of World War II. As part of the agreements 50,000 Jews were transferred from Germany to Israel, as well as goods worth millions of German Reichsmark that were used to build the Land of Israel. The ‘TRANSFERUMBAU’ is an artistic research project that seeks to trace these agreements from the material and human aspect. Due to its multiplicity and complexity it is based on a collaboration between 4 artists and a curator: Ilit Azoulay, Jonathan Touitou, Nir Shauloff, Lou Moria and curated by Hila Cohen-Schneiderman.
The understanding that lays in the heart of this project is that when humans immigrate, they bring with them not only their own personal body, but also their worldview and materialistic culture. In this case we think of imported objects as a manifestation of a certain worldview – the one of the Bauhaus for instance.
The project is tracing original objects transferred in the agreements and deals with the manner in which a useful object becomes a museum exhibit and a carrier of an ideology – national or aesthetic.

The Transfer Agreement was a controversial episode in the relationship between Israel and Germany, which remained obscure despite the fundamental impact it had on the Jewish settlement in Palestine. The agreement between Nazi Germany and the Zionist Federation of Germany was signed on August 25, 1933, and remained valid until 1938. It allowed German-Jews to sell property and real estate with revenues invested in buying goods and building materials. These were then exported from Germany to Palestine, where they were purchased and their worth was returned to those owners who immigrated to the new land. 50,000 German-Jews have immigrated thanks to the agreement; the cumulative wealth – amounting to 150 million Reichsmark – was transferred to the country via the Anglo-Palestine Bank and the Tel Aviv-based Haavara firm. The Nazi regime, in turn, encouraged the emigration of Jews from Germany, increased the number of jobs, and secured the export of goods contrary to the anti-Nazi boycott initiated by the American Jewish community.

The project seeks to revisit the archival and research materials and augment them via artistic and performative renditions. The project will engage with the subject through an architectural perspective: Materials produced in Germany were imported at unprecedented levels, enabling the construction boom of the 1930s: new Jewish cities were being built and Tel Aviv thrived. Numerous private construction projects sprawled in what has later became known as The White City. One of the myths of the White City is that it was built using exclusively local construction materials, but it can actually be seen as a new creation – a German-Jewish co-production based on a shared architectural vision: from imported ideas and practices that were originally developed in the Bauhaus School and influenced the local building style, to the building materials – from cement to tiles. In addition to criticism and protest related to the ongoing trade with the enemy, the import of German goods generated tension with local industrialists, whose products and economic stability were impeded; they engaged in constant ethical and economic struggles with the Haavara firm.

One of the buildings that were built at the time was the Liebling House (The building of the White City Center) – a typical modernist building designed by architect Dov Karmi and constructed by contractor Max Liebling in 1936. The building was donated to the Tel Aviv Municipality in the 1960s and is currently undergoing a renovation and conservation plan designed to convert it into the White City Center. The White City Center, operating under the municipal Department of Conservation and co-funded by the German Federal Ministry of Building (BMUB) and the Tel Aviv Municipality, is another example of a German-Israeli co-production, one that allows us to consider the Liebling House as a representation of past and present power relations and mutual influence. The project would trace the Transfer Agreement via the building on 29 Idelson street, rewrite its narrative through a profound observation of the building and its materiality, map the relationships with other buildings in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, and examine the influence of the German culture imported through building materials and immigrants. The building’s walls, materials, blueprints and the people who founded, built and inhabited it are the raw materials of this project. The final result will be an exhibition featuring the stories of the people and objects through photographs, audio and more.

Visit the exhibition on Libeling Haus’ website

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Ilit Azoulay, Bricolage (III), 2019, Inkjet print, 117.2 x 146.9 cm

Ilit Azoulay, Bricolage (II), 2019, Inkjet print,100.2 x 145 cm

Ilit Azoulay, The Proclamation, 2019, Inkjet print, 88 x 203 cm

Ilit Azoulay, Forget Me Not, 2019, Inkjet print, 84.8 x 235.2 cm

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