Israeli auction house to sell Chagall painting in Israel, a first in more than 20 years

December 19, 2019 by Eliana Rudee - JNS.org
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Israel’s largest auction house, the Tiroche Auction House, will put “Jacob’s Ladder”—a painting by the world-renowned Jewish artist Marc Chagall—up for sale on Jan. 25.

“Jacob’s Ladder”—a painting by the world-renowned Jewish artist Marc Chagall, which will be put up for auction on Jan. 25. Source: Tiroche Auction House.

This will be the first time that a Chagall oil painting has been tendered in Israel in more than 20 years.

Amitai Hazan Tiroche, managing director of Tiroche Auction House, explained that “Jacob’s Ladder” was infamously stolen from the Gordon Auction House in 1996, several days before it was set to be offered to the public. It was discovered more than 23 years later, and after undergoing a short legal process, was bequeathed by an Israeli court to the insurance company that had underwritten it.

Marc Chagall in 1920. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

“The painting depicts one of the most important biblical stories, symbolizing the history of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” said Tiroche. “The ladder links the earth with heaven, and the angels rise and fall, alluding to the Divine prophecy descending upon human beings.”

He added that “Chagall chose not to depict the scene in utopian colours, but rather to use dramatic colours according to the painting period of 1973 to 1974, near the difficult time of the Yom Kippur War.”

In another version of the painting, which was completed in the 1950s, Tiroche maintained that Chagall used similar colours, but there is a marked difference in the “colours of war” he used in the to-be-auctioned painting, showing that perhaps the war was indeed difficult for the artist.

Chagall, the eldest of nine children, was born in 1887 to Chassidic parents in Lithuania. He was said to have felt the need to document Jewish life, particularly shtetl life in Russia, which was in the process of great change and eventually rewritten by two world wars. He spent much time in France, steeped in its “Golden Age” of artistic styles, before fleeing Europe for the United States in 1941. Chagall was lauded for his use of colour, and not only worked in oils but stained glass, examples of which include the famed windows at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. He returned to France after World War II, working and living there until his death in 1985 at the age of 97.

Tiroche is the grandson of Jean Tiroche, a Holocaust survivor who established the first art gallery in Tel Aviv in the 1950s after immigrating from Poland to Israel, going on to become an art dealer both there and in the United States. Although he did not appreciate it when he was a teenager, Tiroche told JNS that he used to frequent art museums with his grandfather, which he must have internalized into his DNA, he said, as he is now an “enthusiastic art collector.”

The Tiroche Auction House was founded in 1992 by Jean Tiroche’s son-in-law, Dov Hazan, and son, Mickey Tiroche, and was later joined by Galia and Amitai, the children of Hazan and Tiroche’s daughter Orna.

‘Increasing interest across the art world’

Though many bidders are owners of Israeli companies, CEOs and oligarchs from the top 1 per cent to 2 per cent of the Israeli economy, Tiroche said those seeking Israeli contemporary art have come from all over the world, including the United States, Australia, South America and China.

With a collection that spans the decades of pre-state Israel through the 1960s’ abstract era and contemporary art, the auction house has sold paintings and art collections of prominent figures and estates, including Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, Abba Eban, Ephraim Kishon and the Baron de Rothschild.

Eliana Rudee

“While contemporary art continues to dominate the international market, the Israeli masters still see strong and increasing interest across the art world, with new bidders and acquisitions from the United States over the last three to four years,” he added.

“Jacob’s Ladder” will be part of the auction house’s larger “Israeli and International Art Auction” in Herzliya Pituach, north of Tel Aviv, which includes works from one of the greatest collections of art in Israel by the late Ami Brown and his wife, Gabi.

The collection includes rare Judaica works of Reuven Rubin’s “The Musicians of Safed” and Nachum Gutman’s “Synagogue,” along with a number of Yochanan Simon’s important paintings from the kibbutz period, such as “Figures in the Kibbutz.” Other iconic works include Yosl Bergner’s “Jewish Klezmers,” Ludwig Blum’s “Tiberias, Sea of Galilee and Mount Hermon,” Samuel Bak’s “Mountain and Pear,” Naftali Bezem’s “Lovers and a Lion,” Abel Pann’s “Mother Sarah” and an “Untitled” by Lea Nikel.

Hoping to attract art collectors of all geographical locations, bidders may attend the auction in person, bid by phone, or participate live online via the Tiroche Auction House website.

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