An exhibit of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design’s graduating class has included a painting of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) in the nude, which resulted in the painting’s removal and a discussion on whether art must always triumph over sexism and provocation.
The artist, named Yam Amrani, presented his painting “Sdinim” (“Sheets”), which displays the head and naked torso of a dark-haired woman. Though he did not state who the subject matter was, his realistic approach made it clear who his source of inspiration was.
Soon after the portrait was put on display, Shenkar President and former minister Yuli Tamir ordered that it be censored, initially having Amrani tape cover the face as a compromise. Tamir explained her decision by saying that “We wanted to detach the nude from Minister Shaked.”
Tamir admitted that she had only gotten word of the portrait after receiving several complaints. “I then reached the conclusion that there is no political statement here, but rather a sexist statement on a woman who also happens to be a political figure.”
After the storm refused to die out, the compromise between Shenkar and Amrani was nullified, and the painting was completely removed from the exhibit.
Explaining her position, Tamir said, “Though we do protect freedom of expression and controversial statements here,” in this case she felt the piece was mainly offensive toward women. “I would act exactly the same if it was a portrait of Zehava Galon (Meretz) or Haneen Zoabi (Joint Arab List).”
The act of censorship was equally seen as controversial, and has even led Head of the Department of Multidisciplinary Art Larry Abramson to hand in a letter of resignation. “I felt betrayed,” he said in light of the decision to remove the painting. “It was hard for me to accept Yuli Tamir’s directive, precisely because of the values that she represents and in light of which she runs this school. At that moment, I realized I had to resign.”
However, following a request made by Tamir, Abramson agreed to postpone tendering his resignation until an emergency meeting on the matter, set to take place on Wednesday, will convene. “If we manage to create a dynamic in the meeting that allows for freedom of expression and academic liberty, I will view this as an accomplishment and remain at my position,” said Abramson, adding, “If not, I will very sadly resign.”
Shenkar College has issued a statement saying, “Prof. Tamir welcomes the discussion due to take place at Wednesday’s meeting, and hopes it will be pragmatic and productive.”