On Tuesday, April 4th in the Tel Aviv historic town hall known today as Beit Ha’ir, the Prettimess collective unveiled their group exhibition that was nothing short of a spectacle. High up on the building’s façade, which was declared a Unesco World heritage site, lit with spotlights were eight pieces, one by every artist in the collective – DARFISH, DIOZ, ELNA, GAB, MANYEARSAGO, PESH, UNTAY, Signor Gi and YONIL.
For those who didn’t enter early, a line formed and entrance was monitored, dozens of people had arrived, on a Tuesday night nonetheless, hardly the typical art night out. Once you entered the building it was clear that nothing about this exhibition was typical, the volume was turned up very high.
After crossing the buildings foyer the crowd had to pass through a small room, its walls covered in images by all the artists of the collective. The room was lit with a flickering colorful light which changed the images before your eyes. After a few quick selfies and instastories, we entered the main hall to find the walls of the two floors covered in unique pieces. Not a single inch was left untended. A striking sense of plenty washed over which was further enhanced by the loud punk music played by a live band on the ground floor patio.
Touring across the walls of the two main floors of the building, one could find areas dedicated to each artist. First floor, UNTAY, DIOZ, second floor MANYEARSAGO, GAB, ELNA… There were also some joined pieces scattered here and there, especially evident was the central chandelier made of images by all artists. The pieces on the walls were mostly imagery from the artist’s pieces in the public spaces, easily identifiable. Some did expand their well-known motifs from two dimensional pieces to sculptures and ready-made pieces, in various sizes.
The exhibition is the first of several to be presented in Beit Ha’ir dedicated to creative collectives. The Prettimess collective was invited for a “take-over”. It was evident that this exhibition was not a product of a collaboration between the artists and the curators rather between the artists and themselves. While some may find the lack of a curatorial input to be synonymous with lack of artistic merit, I think the final exhibition speaks for itself. It would be difficult to deny it from its status as a striking event in the local art scene. Contemplating why it had such a strong impact, while knowing how it came to life, led me to consider the issue of scale and size.
The totality of the exhibition was probably it’s most distinct and impressionable feature. The whole building was paved with pieces. It was as far as you can get from a white cube. This outburst of pieces gave the sense of a radical agenda, as if the members decided to take the invitation to the extreme and lash out in full power. The fact they stayed loyal to their signature languages strengthened this impression. Being the first major collective exhibition they have created might explain this decision, using the opportunity as a tool to show themselves at what they do best, and like most.
However a set of much smaller and intimate pieces were the ones that showed what I consider to be their current source of strength. This is source is their group. As I mentioned, being a collective is what brought them to exhibit in the first place. On the walls of the stairs taking you from floor to floor to witness more and more large ambitious pieces, were photos of the members from various moments of work. These intimate photographs were a small trace of what the members really are on their own –hard working individuals, trying to put their message out there. Like many artists that don’t fit a classic mold of the art world, finding a platform to present your work is a challenge. The fact is most of the collective members’ lack a formal art training and are graduates of design programs. Reality tells us that their collective is their answer to this struggle. Their collective isn’t an artistic collaboration, they don’t create pieces together. While I don’t doubt that synergy can be created merely by proximity, they do not declare themselves to an artistic group that promotes a genre, rather a group of artists that lean toward the urban sphere. Some of them even resent the attempt to include them in the genre of urban art. They differ greatly in style and subject matter. Are they a contemporary version of artist collectives that were based on agendas? Perhaps. This method isn’t foreign to the global or local art world and similar groups have existed until recently and still do.
As an urban art advocate and enthusiast I loved the exhibition for transporting me into a world I love, bringing to life like never before the images I know from different corners of the city. Part of why I love urban art is because it is, for me, a romantic act of individual existence. The urban artist has to claim the space and make it his own, taking many kinds of risks he creates for us. I had a feeling this exhibition was no longer art created for the people but rather for the art field, created to draw attention and to be noticed, created in a powerful almost aggressive way. While I justify and appreciate radicalism especially within said genre, I thought this could have been an opportunity to show how flexible art can be, how the idea routed in the work of the members of the collective can soar from the street to the walls and space of a historic city building and still be as romantic and intimate as ever.
Nonetheless I was happy to witness this moment and hope more like it will come. I hope attention will be drawn to the work of these artists and that they will be considered not only as urban artists but rather as artists in a broader sense of the word.
The Prettimess collective exhibition will be displayed until August. For inquiries about tours of the exhibition please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org