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Zoltán Kluger: Berlin-Palestine (1928-1958)

Opening: 27 November 2019, 6 pm

On view until 31 January 2020

At the beginning of his career, photographer Zoltán Kluger (1896-1977) spent some significant years in Berlin, which laid the foundation for his career, but in 1933 he emigrated to Palestine and settled there in the following decades, which made him isolated from the biggest centers of art in Western Europe and the USA. Under this circumstance, his emigration to the East, his artistic career made an unusual turn. The exhibited works present some chapters of his the early, Berlin-based period (1928-1933) and the following two decades spent in Palestine (1933-1958). 

The photographs of the Berlin-period were commissioned by Erich Mendelsohn German expressionst architect, one of Kluger’s most important clients throughout his career in Berlin. On these photos, Kluger captures Mandelsohns architectural models and the process of their making, with the title: “Die Wirklichkeit in Miniatur” (Reality in miniature). In the focus of the series stand the model, as the most important step before the actual architectural implementation, which has an essential role in ensuring that the building which comes to life is free of inaccuracies. On the pictures, Mendelsohn himself appears during the modeling of his own architectural plans. Kluger became acquainted with the most modern endeavors of contemporary art, photography, and graphic art in Berlin, and the short time he spent there greatly influenced his artistic development.

Shortly after his arrival to Palestine in 1933, he soon became one of the most occupied photojournalists at a time. Working for the Orient Press Company, he traveled across the country, capturing the events of the birth of a new state. The main subjects of these photographs are the urban and rural development, the changing structure of economy, and industry, infrastructure, work, migration and the moments of everyday life. In the center of the period before the founding of the state Israel (1948) stands the man of the utopistic Zionist vision, who works tirelessly on creating the new homeland. Kluger, however, had his doubts in capturing this new ideal, witnessing that behind the smiles and the hopeful glances lies a lot of suffering. For that reason, despite his professional success, he found himself facing a dilemma between the needs of his clients and his intention to capture honest and human moments. His sensitive, anthropocentric vision, his modern consistent photographic language accompanied him throughout his career. In 1958, for personal and professional reasons, he moved to New York, and lived there until his death in 1977, managing his own photo-store. 

His works have been exhibited in several international exhibitions in the 1930’s, in Paris, Vienna and London, but after his death his oeuvre, which was distributed among different Israeli institutions, has long been out of the sight of the history of photography. The first retrospective solo exhibition of his photographs took place only in the beginning of the 20th century, in The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv in 2008.