One of several film festivals in Israel, this one takes place during Succot (late September/early October) and my personal favourite.
It is very much a festival that is part of the city (the more established Jerusalem Film Festival is very much centred round the Cinematheque), screenings being spread round many screens, outdor events take place in the square at the Cinematheque, interesting programme (main focus is films of the Mediterranean, but also includes CinemaEuropa) and always attracts at least a couple of big names (eg Harvey Keitel in 2001, Elliot Gould 2010).
If you’ve been to Haifa's Japanese art museum, where everything is arranged with clockwork precision, leaving lots of air and space, the Mane-Katz Museum on the top of the Carmel is very much the opposite. The old high-ceilinged stone house given to Mane-Katz by the mayor of Haifa in 1958 is practically bursting at the seams.
Paintings are hung from floor to ceiling, and the rooms are packed with an incredible assortment of Judaica and objects d’art. The atmosphere is more flea market than museum. As an artist, Mane-Katz was kind of middling (in my opinion) but he was a collector par excellence. It is worth visiting the museum for his ethnological collection alone.
Although Mane-Katz never lived here, it feels like you are walking into his private chambers. Apart from his paintings and sculptures, the furniture itself – the cabinets, the four-poster canopy bed, the Oriental carpets - are works of art.
Moving from room to room, you hardly know where to look first. Velvet holy ark coverings, Hanukkah lamps, Sabbath candlesticks, intricate paper-cuts and illuminated ketubot sit side-by-side with sketches by his famous artist friends, including a signed charcoal portrait of Mane-Katz by Picasso from 1932.
Mane-Katz was born in Ukraine in 1894 and moved to Paris at the age of 19. He studied art there, and became affiliated with “Jewish School of Paris.” It is interesting to see how his palette changed over the years, from very dark and somber to bright and almost garish. The themes changed too, from classic still-lifes and portraits, to Jewish folklore: dancing Hasids, floating animals, fiddlers, weddings, scenes from the European shtetl. Think Marc Chagall. Actually, his father wanted him to be a rabbi…
Mane-Katz always said that his real home was Paris, but Israel was his spiritual home. He first visited Palestine in 1928, along with a trip to Egypt and Syria, and after that, made a point of coming every year. Four years before his death, the city of Haifa provided him with this venue for his collection.
When I was little, I used to wonder about that Mother Goose nursery rhyme “Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it…” How could she have lost her pocket? After visiting the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, it dawned on me: Pockets were not always sewn on.
Take the kimono, for instance. A lovely garment, to be sure. But it had no pockets. So the Japanese invented a gadget to solve the problem – a netsuke, a miniature carving made of wood, ivory, bone or other materials. If you wanted to carry something in 17th-19th century Japan, you hung it on your belt with a cord. The netsuke was an accessory that kept this dangling pocket or pouch from falling off.
These tiny sculptures, in the shape of imaginary animals, demons, human figures, etc. were no larger than 5 cm in height and according to the rules of netsuke-making, they had to be able to stand. Felix Tikotin seems to have been particularly fond of them: At the Haifa museum, there’s a whole room full.
As Western-style clothing came into vogue, Japanese craftsmen stopped producing netsuke and they became collectors’ items. But there is someone who still makes them: George Weill, a London-born Jew who lives in Israel. Last year, the Tikotin Museum mounted a show of his work.
“Netsuke are not perceived by everyone as genuine art,” Weill told an interviewer. “Today, any son of a *** can pick up a brush and declare himself an artist. The thing about netsuke is how it embodies the absolute essence of art. It’s a format that allows you to walk around with an intricately carved sculpture on your person. You can’t do that with a Henry Moore.”
TIKOTIN MUSEUM OF JAPANESE ART
On the top of Mt. Carmel, sandwiched between the hotels and pretty much eclipsed by them, is a museum devoted entirely to Japanese art. The building itself is low-slung, and partly obscured by shrubbery. A polished wooden walkway on the side of the building leads up to the entrance, hidden from the street by graceful stalks of bamboo.
So why is there a Japanese museum in Haifa? It all began with a German Jew named Felix Tikotin (his family probably came from the town of Tikocyn on the Polish Russian border), who studied architecture in Munich and fell in love with Japanese art after a visit to…Paris. From that moment on, he became a collector. In April 1927, he opened a gallery of Japanese art in Berlin. In 1932, his private collection was exhibited in Copenhagen. When the show was over, he went to Denmark to help pack up, only to find that the whole collection had been shipped off to Holland by a friend for fear that it would be confiscated by the Nazis, who had just come to power.
Tikotin followed his collection and settled in Amsterdam, where he married and had two daughters. When the Germans invaded Holland, they went into hiding and the collection was stolen. But love is love… After the war, he went back to collecting Japanese art. In 1950, the Dutch police caught a bunch of thieves trying to smuggle Japanese art across the border. The authorities turned to him as an expert – and he discovered it was his own collection.
After visiting Israel in 1956, Tikotin made up his mind that this is where his valuable collection of 7,000 Japanese artworks - prints, miniature carvings, manuscripts, antique swords, painted screens, tea bowls, kimonos, etc. – should be. The mayor of Haifa, Abba Khoushy, liked the idea and an exhibition hall was built, incorporating various features of Japanese architecture.
I am not the world’s greatest fan of Japanese art, but I did enjoy a stroll around the museum. The netsuke (see my next tip) are particularly charming.
While in a small mall in Haifa I noticed (not that I could avoid seeing them) a troop of actors working on their skills in the local mall. They were doing the typical "I'm not a person, I'm a mannequin" routine. And I must say, several of them were quite talented at not moving unless someone adjusted them.
The little girl in this picture seemed quite captivated and I'm not sure if she ever figured out if the young lady was a person or a mannequin! It was a couple of hours of entertainment while the weather was rather nasty outside!