Irena Gordon, from the exhibition "Jewish Icons - Andy Warhol and Israeli Artists", September 2010

The text in Beth Hatfutsot Musum homepage 


The fact that Hannah Arendt is not among the Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century is not accidental, claimed Erik Riedel, the curator of the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt, in his introduction to Shy's Abady "Hannah Arendt Project," when the series was presented at the Museum. And indeed, Shy Abady's choice of the image of the German-Jewish political thinker demonstrates how the selection of Jewish/Israeli cultural heroes is a question which is deeply rooted in the ideological discourse of time and place. Arendt is one of the most central and controversial figures of twentieth-century political and philosophical thought. Despite her work for the European Jewry during and after the holocaust, and though her Jewish identity was central to her weltanschauung, Arendt was denunciated by the Israeli establishment and public, as well as by wide circles in the Jewish world. The denunciation stemmed from her critic of the way the state of Israel conducted the Eichmann trial, and the controversy Arendt steered in her portrayal of Eichmann's image in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil. Nevertheless in recent years Arendt has gained renewed interest and acceptance in Israel.

In his project, Abady presents portraits of Arendt in different stages of her life, from youth to old age. The portraits are accompanied with symbolic motives, which mirror aspects of her biography and writings. Among them, for example, is the winged helmet of the French cigarettes firma Gauloises (which hints at European history and the fact that Arendt was a heavy smoker), and Muttersprache, which presents a mother and daughter with their faces blacked, simultaneously signifying the attempt to erase identity and Arendt's deep commitment to German language and culture.

Abady's works are based on photos, but unlike Warhol, who flattens his heroes and turns them into pop-icons, Abady uses the photos and industrial icons (Gauloises, Meissen porcelain) in search for a deeper understanding of the image and her story.


Irena Gordon

September 2010


Critic on the exhibition in "MidnightEast"