Zigi Ben-Haim, SoHo Artist, To Create Sculpture on Broadway
Posted on February 27, 2017 by SoHo Broadway Initiative in News,
The SoHo Broadway Initiative is excited to announce that the artist selected
through the New York City Department of Transportation’s (NYCDOT)
Community Commissions program will be Zigi Ben-Haim!
Zigi Ben-Haim is a SoHo based artist who has lived in the neighborhood for
more than 40 years. Zigi was born in Baghdad, Iraq and immigrated to Israel
when he was 5 years old. In 1970 Zigi graduated from the Institute of Fine
Arts and embarked on a solo exhibition to the United States through an
American Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship.
Zigi’s multi-cultural background has inspired his artwork through the years.
While living in SoHo, Zigi utilized various materials such as discarded
papers, ropes, concrete, and branches to inform and express his ideas. In
1982, he joined a National Geographic expedition trip to a rainforest in
Costa Rica where he observed ants carrying large leaves to build their
nests. This is where he adopted the idea of great disproportion as a
metaphor for surviving. Zigi has won numerous awards for his artwork
which have been installed in countries such as the United States, Israel, and
The New York City Department of Transportation Community Commissions
Fall 2016 Open Call, solicited artists to present temporary site-responsive
artwork around the City. Within the Open Call, five priority sites, one from
each borough, were identified with local partners such as the SoHo
Broadway Initiative for artists to respond with colorful and dynamic artwork.
The SoHo Broadway Initiative is thrilled to have Zigi’s sculpture on
Broadway starting this summer. Stay connected on social media with DOT
Art (www.nyc.gov/dotart) and the SoHo Broadway Initiative for updates
during the production process. Below is a rendering of Zigi’s proposed
This is just the model for the sculpture Treasure the Green. The sculpture is being fabricated now, and will be installed in June.
Zigi Featured in Article about Archiving over 40 years of Work
Published May 4, 2016
Welcome to Zigiland
Yangxingyue “Rita” Wang, who studied fine arts in her native China and is now earning her master’s degree in visual arts at New York University, also likes the cross-generational learning that Art Cart provides. She’s found she has more things in common with painter and sculptor Zigi Ben-Haim, who just turned 70, than she expected.
Ben-Haim works in his spacious loft behind the anonymous door on a side street in the middle of Soho. There is more than one photograph of Albert Einstein in his studio, and — with his wild eyebrows and mustache — the artist somewhat resembles the great physicist, who counsels from a poster on the wall that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”
In fact, Ben-Haim has created his own world, quite literally: a globe of a world entitled “Zigiland.” And he still works like a madman to keep up with his creativity. “I’m in the studio every day by 8 a.m.,” he says, “and sometimes around midnight I complain that I have to stop working like I used to.”
Sitting at a table that might easily accommodate eight, Ben-Haim reminisces about his travels. He was born in Baghdad and grew up in Tel Aviv before coming to the United States to study fine arts in San Francisco. He recalls standing in line for 25 minutes to get a very small loaf of bread in the Soviet Union. (He gave the bread to someone waiting behind him.) He also worked in Berlin, the only time in his life when he had a steady paycheck, because the government was giving him a stipend.
Ben-Haim says he appreciates how everyone involved benefits from Art Cart: “The artist has his work organized; the institution has a database of the art and the students get a great experience working with an artist.”
When Wang created a stunning website to summarize her own work, she realized “I’m doing the same thing as Zigi, documenting what I have done in the past.” Not only that, “Working with Zigi has affected me positively,” she said. “Even at 70 he’s still creating. It’s a very big inspiration to me.”
See full article at http://www.nextavenue.org/the-artists-legacy/
Zigi Talks about his history in Soho for the New York Public Library
Part of the Soho Memory Project and New York Public Library's "Soho Stories: A Neighborhood Oral History Project"
Zigi's Story Opens The Guardian's Immigration Series
Published on March 22, 2016
"Made in the USA" in Lake Placid
Interview with North Country Public Radio, July 17, 2015
Listen to the story :
Direct link to the radio webpage:
Zigi Ben-Haim's 'Made In The USA' at LPCA
Interview with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, July 29, 2015
Listen to the story:
Direct link to the radio webpage:
Click text to be directed to the article
Zigi's show, Made in the USA, exhibiting at LPCA
July 17th, 2015 - August 16th, 2015
Zigi talks about his latest exhibition, The Works from the 70's, with i24 News
Click below for the interview:
Zigi Ben-Haim in Conversation with Curator Nira Itzhaki
Works from the 70's Exhibition
At the Chelouche Gallery, Tel-Aviv, Israel
During the 70's, after completing his MFA studies in California, the artist Zigi Ben-Haim (born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in Israel) arrived in SoHo, New York, where he resides and works till this day. The exhibition Zigi Ben-Haim Works from the 70's is dedicated to artworks of this period that marks the breakthrough of his artistic career, and which influenced young artists then, and now.
Nira: I would like to talk with you about the current exhibition at the Chelouche Gallery, titled: Zigi Ben-Haim, Works from the 70's and also, to discuss why now? We decided to show your works from the 70's. How it came about? This past December, I returned from Miami Basel Art Fair, where I was extremely surprised to see young artists working in the style of your works from the 70's. I told myself, we must show your works from the 70's today because it is so connected to the contemporary creations of young artists that are receiving world international recognition and displayed their works in very central major galleries in the world. So how do you feel about that?
Zigi: First of all, it is very nostalgic for me. But beyond it, it brought me back to the days I was creating these works. The truth is, it really moves something in me. Because the works I am doing now are very much based on the works from the 70's. And suddenly to see the works from the 70's hanging on the walls, not in storage, it simply connects for me, the period of then with the period of now. Much more than I ever thought it will. Looking back, and examining your work then and now, I think is very imporatnt for an artist.
Nira: The works from the 70's look so fresh, as if they were created today. I was very surprised to see not just how they feel, and the strength of their apperance, but also how well they were preserved.
Zigi: I pay a lot of attention to the quality and craftsmanship of making the work. Especially, working with paper. Paper has its own problems of oxydation that it gets yellow and wears off. However, even back then, I understood that I have to neutralize the oxydation from the paper and use appropriate materials that will preserve the paper and my work. Some of the people asked me if they were recent works that I made in the style of the 70's. But when I told them no, and that those are the authentic works that I created 35-40 years ago, they were even more at aw.
Nira: I think it will be very interesting to hear from you about the artistic environment that surrounded you in the beginning of the 70's. And how was New York then?
Zigi: All the works from the 70's were created in New York. This was a very interesting period in the art world. Very active. This was the period that each line or style of work was a different movement. Today, it is more eclectic. What was interesting for me was to create my artwork not from artistic materials because art for me is part of life. And life, is not art. This art was created from the materials that were surrounding me, not the materials that I bought in an art store. You don't see brush strokes, color or canvas in the traditional way in this work. What you see in these works are the materials that I collected in the streets of SoHo and glued them over ropes and other materals that don't belong in the artworld. To make art from these mateials, newspapers, brown paper and pattern paper, that were discared in the streets from the sweatshops, was what interested me. Kind of anti-art, which actually makes it art. I would pull out the ropes vigorously from beneath the layers of paper and it created the gaps in between like earthquake in nature. For me it was action painting.
Nira: What kind of artists surrounded you? And what were they involved in?
Zigi: At that time, it was the minimalistic and conceptual art movement that was in its top. These were the art movements that were based more on ideas and relations to art on searching for materials that are not conventional. Simply, movements that wanted to break the rules of making art. Movements that started in the footprints of the Dada and the father of the dada of course was Marcel Duchamp and the artists of his period. They acheived a lot and brought the art world in big strives forward. What they contributed to the art world is new tools to create art.
Nira: Give me examples of these artists.
Zigi: One of the artists that extremely impressed me then, was Robert Rymon. For me, a person that did not grow up with conceptual minimalistic art, Robert Rymon was a big surprise. I saw one of his works at the MOMA, a big canvas, white on white. There was nothing there. Just white. I asked myself, what is this? It's nothing. And then I started thinking, if this work is hanging on the wall here at the MOMA, there must be something behind it. And then I started going deeper into it. And all of a sudden, I started enjoying it. Beyond the enjoyment, I started understanding that there are different directions in the arts. Not just what you see. But also, what is behind it. Behind your seeing it. There is a reason why its there. And this is how it began for me. In other words, my head opened up and I understood that it is not all about color and composition. And what's good and what's not good because this is the background that I came from. My teachers were Shtreichman and Zaritzki, its a different world. The lyrics of the color and everything was based on the European art. But in America, the land of the free, you have to think differently.
Nira: Why did you leave Israel?
Zigi: I received a scholarship from the America Israel Cultural Foundation to study in California, to do my MFA. I started in Berkely, then I moved to San Francisco because their art department was a better one in my opninon, and I also studied at the CCAC, the college of art. Simply, what interested me was where the best teachers are, that I wanted to learn from. The school itself didn't make any difference for me. It was the teachers that influenced me. In the art schools and universities you can come across the right people that you want to meet. And I was searching for them. There, I developed what I started as a student in Israel. I exhibited in Israel, during the time I was a student and I received a lot of attention even then. Following my MFA in California, I was invited to show in New York. New York was extremely dynamic during those days. All the new makings in the arts came from there. New York was not justthe center of the art world in America. It was the center of the art world of the world.
Nira: So you came to New York to live in SoHo, and started to create the works on paper. It was sort of a breakthrough of a new way and a new thinking.
Zigi: Yes. I simply worked on paper. This was my materal. (This was the color I used). Why paper? Because, I lived in SoHo, an industrial neighborhood, that most of the buildings were still sweat shops and factories for sowing. And they used a lot of paper for patterns. Lets say they wanted to cut a part of the shoulder or the leg or the dress, they used paper. A lot of packing paper as well. And ropes that they used to tie them all together. All these materials that they threw out and became trash, interested me. Every evening, they would throw out this paper and ropes and I would walk the streets and collect them.
Maybe I should tell you a short story that connects to the neighborhood. There was an interview with Robert Rauchenberg, about two years before he passed away.
I want to tell you a short story about the artist, Robert Rauchenberg. You know his most famous work- The Goat- and the Tyre, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In an interview two years before he passed away, he reminised about the past when he lived in SoHo, when he used to walk the streets in the evening. First he said, "I started on Crosby Street and if I didn't find anything I would go to Merer Street." He told the interviewer, "The goat I found on Crosby street and the Tyre on Mercer St." And this is the master piece we see now at MOMA. Why do I tell you about this? Because this was a period of time where artists searched in their enviornment for what they needed. Most of them didn't go to the art store to buy it. It was an integral part of our lives. I would walk the SoHo streets in the evenings and found the paper that was just the thing that I needed. Paper that carries with it some history, went through a certain process. It completed its task was thrown away. And for me it was just the right material to start my work with it. To begin with it something new another chapter in History.
Nira: Where did you show these works?
Zigi: At first, I showed it with Beta Urdang Gallery in New York. She was the one that got very excited about my work with paper. At the time she represented a group of conceptualist, contemporary and minimalist artists. I showed with her in New York and in Israel. The museums discovered these works right away. The Guggenheim Museum purchased a work for their collection so did the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art. Marc Scheps told me that mine was the first art work he purchased when he became the Director of the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art. Other major collectors and collections around the world purchased work through other galleries like Vera Munro in Hamburg, Germany or Galleriet, Lund Sweden. A very Larg work is hanging at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. They call her the "Kotel" becasue everyone wants to get photographed by it.
Nira: I was reading some of the reviews that were written about you by imporant art critics in those days and all of them emphasized the importance of the originality and new directions your work took. Among them, the curator Yigal Zalmona who wrote in 1977 about your works, The courage to change the process around Zig won, a place of honor in the circle of the original artists of that period in the U.S. And the art critic of Arts Magazine, Joan Marter included you in the tradition of working with the white color, as part of "Less is More," that started with Malevich in 1918. In fact you were considered as one of the artists that dealt with leaving a footprint on the work as an action painting on the paper and one of the leading forces in the movement of sculptural drawings that are producing history and memories. What does it mean to you, being an original road blazer which influenced young artists then and now?
Zigi: I never belonged to any movement. In fact, I refuse to belong. I looked at the minimalism or conseptualism as tools for me to use in my art. I translate my past and present with the assistance of these tools to create the footprints of culture and nature as seen through my multi-cultural experience. My approach is more personal than universal. This is the foundation of my work.
Nira: In your work I see layers on layers of history or past like footprints.
Zigi: Indeed, the word footprints is the right word to talk about my works. In a footprint you leave some memory of the past the missing part points at the exhisting part. Those are the ideas that interested me then and still do now. The more depth you have in the work, the more is revealed of its concept.
Nira: We can see the idea of the footprints in the new works as well. But the images are different.
Zigi: Yes, the works I create today are based on the works from the 70's. The concept didn't change, just got wider image. The materials changed just like my environment has changed. Different industry from paper to aluminum. The images I am surrounded with changed and I use them. It is all based on the fact that you come from one place or culture to a completely different culture and you must adopt. It collides and coincides with one another. All these layers of culture escort you through the years you don't leave them behind but take them along.
To access the press article, click the following: Jewish Business News, January 2015
Zigi's exhibition, Works from the 70s, recommended by Calcalist, Israeli Economist Newspaper