Shiff Prize exhibitions at TAMA

The Haim Shiff Prize for Figurative Realist Art, Tel Aviv Museum of Art

The Haim Shiff Prize for Figurative Realist Art, sponsored by Dubi Shiff and named after his father, is awarded annually by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Established in 2008, it aims to encourage this genre of painting in contemporary art, and to increase its visibility in the Israeli art scene. It includes a monetary grant and a solo exhibition at the museum, accompanied by a catalogue.


Tigist Yoseph Ron, 2019

“Tigist Yoseph Ron combines traditional realist painting with vestiges of Cubism and Expressionism, which together become intense-looking charcoal drawings. She creates portraits sunk within the darkness of black coal, through which light flickers—at time from the portrait’s three-dimensional constructions, at times as misplaced light areas that seem like white lacunae in the drawing. Yoseph Ron creates strong, piercing portraits that produce a meaningful hybridization between the black charcoal’s intensity and the objects of her drawings. She generates an original, fresh revival of the medium of drawing in an age ruled by other, high-volume media that are almost impossible to compete with.”

The prize committee

Samah Shihadi, 2018
“Samah Shihadi: Spellbound”
23 June 2019 – 21 October 2019
Emanuela Caló

Samah Shihadi’s (b. 1978) starting point is her family’s experience as a representative of the Palestinian people’s traumatic history and its vanishing traditions. She offers a feminist view of place and identity and on women’s status, especially in Arab culture. s perfectly executed drawings, Shihadi’s encompassed in a veil of mystery, are delicately exhilarating. Her peaceful works are imbued with a criticism of logic, order, occupation, of religion’s role in art and of women’s role in society.

Emanuela Calò


Matan Ben Cnaan, 2017
“Matan Ben Cnaan: Paintings”
25 June 2018 – 27 October 2018
Emanuela Caló

“Ben Cnaan’s paintings combine the language of figurative art and classical approaches with a contemporary, highly pertinent gaze. His works touch upon a wide range of contexts that rupture various boundaries, while engaging with the local landscape and light and with local figures. Biblical and other myths serve Ben Cnaan as a trigger for the creation of complex human situations, which he stages, photographs, and then paints. His staging, photography, and personal interpretation locate the paintings at a removal from the original myths, while charging them with a personal and critical message. Ben Cnaan situates these myths in the context of a banal, local reality, stripping them of their heroic resonances and eluding the nostalgic thrust towards a glorious past.”

Emanuela Calò, “Local Realism and Critical Nostalgia in Matan Ben Cnaan’s Paintings,” in Matan Ben Cnaan — Paintings, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2018.


Fatma Shanan, 2016
“Fatma Shanan: Works 2010-2017”
26 June 2017 – 25 November 2017
Dr. Doron J. Lurie

“Shanan is currently occupied with creating space for her work and space in her works, as well as with the convergences of body and space in her being as both woman and painter. Her carpets function as sources of authority that accumulate their symbolic value and serve as tools for perceiving and assessing. … In these works, the representation of her figure exceeds the boundaries of the contact between the space defined by the carpet and her own body. … [T]his is world as web of mutual influences. However, her a priori choice of carpets that represent eastern cultural treasures that are displayed in the west in an act of appropriation posits questions about the role of the body in practices of identity, which is constructed in a complex negotiation process. This is not done in declarations but through the knowledge that the painterly work provides. Shanan ‘weaves’ her figure into the carpet she paints … The carpet paintings do not flatted the relations between body and space, but stretch the boundaries of identity and the confines of the body in space — the ‘space-body,’ a hybrid image spinning through worlds.”

Yael Guilat, “Body-Space: Boundaries and Identities in New Works by Fatma Shanan,” in: Fatma Shanan: Works, 2010–2017, ed. Doron J. Lurie, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2017, pp. 108–109.


Ofer Rotem, 2015
“Ofer Rotem”
23 June 2016 – 05 February 2017
Dr. Doron J. Lurie

“Ofer Rotem … explores a world composed of scribbles, lines, and patches of color. The drawings in this exhibition feature two seemingly contradictory main themes: train stations defined by functionality, order, and steamlined, geometric forms (especially in terms of their architecture), and uncultivated, unordered natural expanses. Rotem frequently depicts reflections in glass (display windows, train stations, etc.) in a painstaking, almost frenetic manner, and in a remarkably wide range of grays. His drawings seem to exist simultaneously in two parallel universes: the overall image appears as a purely realist composition, yet a sustained gaze reveals that some of the drawings contain an entire subterranean world inhabited by dwarfs, goblins, and strange monsters camouflaged among bushes, grass, and other forms of vegetation. The observer of these drawings is in for surprises.”

Doron J. Lurie, “The Bridge, the Railway, the Pool, and All the Rest,” in: Ofer Rotem, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2016, p. 118.


Leonid Balaklav, 2014
“Leonid Balaklav: An Obsessive Portraitist”
25 June 2015 – 10 October 2015
Dr. Doron J. Lurie

“Leonid Balaklav is deeply inspired by the grand, rich tradition of Russian portraiture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. … Unlike many other portrait painters, Balaklav insists on repeatedly exploring and depicting the same models, over and over again. There is something obsessive in his investigations. Each time he discovers and ‘extracts’ a slightly different quality from the same ‘model’: one the angle of light falling on the sitter’s face has changed, another time the setting is different, and at yet other times the model has simply grown up (or even aged) before the artist’s very eyes (and brush).”

“In the catalogue of Balaklav’s solo exhibition at Ein Harod Museum of Art, Gideon Ofrat masterfull described some of his self portraits from the 1990s as follows: ‘A very long line of self-flawings, confirmations of presence in the course of its perishing, like a signature that says “Here I am” and “I’m not here” at one and the same time.’”

Doron J. Lurie, “In His Image and Likeness: Leonid Balaklav, Portraits and Self-Portraits,” in: Leonid Balaklav: An Obsessive Portraitist, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2015, pp. 142, 137.


David Nipo, 2013
“David Nipo: I Returned, and Saw under the Sun”
26 June 2014 – 18 October 2014
Varda Steinlauf

“David Nipo’s paintings are clearly and reflexively concerned with the art of the past. His carefully constructed compositions are shaped by an intriguing play of symmetry, chiaroscuro, and symbolic concepts. Nipo is concerned with the act of painting itself, and the genre of figurative painting is present in all of his works. Observation serves as a point of departure for representation, which relies on the examination of a concrete reality. As he puts it, “Painting is not an object, but rather a form of congealed observation, a medium for introspection.” Inspired by the artists of the baroque period, Nipo highlights his treatment of light by means of rapid alternations and an elusive interplay between light and shadow, as well as a compositional flow inwards into the depth of the painting and from the painting outwards.”

Varda Steinlauf, “David Nipo: Seeing Light,” in: David Nipo: I Returned, and Saw Under the Sun,  exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2014, p. 110.


Eldar Farber, 2012
“Eldar Farber: Tel Aviv–Berlin”
25 June 2013 – 23 November 2013
Varda Steinlauf

“Eldar Farber has been painting [the Yarkon River] landscape for over ten years. Most of his compositions capture the eastern part of the Yarkon, while intentionally avoiding pastoral or over-idealized representations of the landscape. They are dominated by shades of green and characterized by roughly applied paint. Farber selects fragments of reality and then effaces certain elements, while ‘correcting’ and blurring others, without entirely doing away with them. Farber’s painting liberates itself from landscape painting’s obvious reliance on naturalism, while serving as a metaphor for something wild, secret, mysterious and sometimes even threatening – something that connects the self to the ‘unconscious’ and to the ‘other,’ something by means of which modern man searches for his truth. …  Eldar Farber paints the Yarkon Stream almost obsessively, in an attempt to crack the code of Israeli existence. …  Farber ‘tells’ a story taking place in a non-existent place or time, a story whose center of gravity lies in its emotional value. His paintings are repositories of memories, of an atmosphere, and of emotions that resonate with the viewer as he gazes at them. These reflections or contemplations of a place invite the viewer to return to them repeatedly, compelling him to study the fusion of different landscapes that cannot be disentangled from one another.”

Varda Steinlauf, “Eldar Farber: Transitory Landscapes,” in: Eldar Farber: Tel Aviv–Berlin, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2013, pp. 55–58.


Sigal Tsabari, 2012
“Sigal Tsabari: Hymn of Weeds”
25 June 2013 – 23 November 2013
Dr. Doron J. Lurie

“Something appears to be concealed beneath the surface of the narratives depicted in Tsabari’s paintings – something disturbing and perhaps even frightening and threatening. The peaceful atmosphere that initially seems to suffuse her realist images dissipates upon further scrutiny; we discover the artist’s conscious decision to infuse them with a sense of impending danger, which seems to have stolen into the narrative as if by chance. … This underlying sense of discomfort and threat is even more palpable in Tsabari’s self-portraits, in which she documents herself in states of emotional suffocation, self-flagellation, and self-controlled torment – states that may be conceived of as different aspects of melancholic experience.”

Alec Mishory, “Melancholic Bliss: On Sigal Tsabari’s Paintings,” in: Sigal Tsabari: Hymn of Weeds, ed. Doron J. Lurie, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2013, pp. 24–26.


Orit Akta Hildesheim, 2011
“Orit Akta Hildesheim: In Vincoli “
25 June 2012 – 22 September 2012
Curator: Varda Steinlauf

“Orit Akta Hildesheim’s paintings …are highly attentive to reality. At the same time, the artist’s gaze is introverted and focuses on the tension between presence and absence, the visible and the invisible, and her painterly surfaces are marked by an aesthetic and poetic complexity. …

Orit Akta Hildesheim’s work simultaneously involves two movements: one is a movement from the outside inwards, from the sign towards its meaning, from the exterior shell towards the essence or core, in an attempt to reveal the secret hidden within it, to interpret the sign. At the same time, the works involve a movement from the interior outwards, whose aim is liberation and freedom: of the self imprisoned in the body; of sexuality bound by notions of moral purity or familial relations; or of femininity imprisoned within the domestic sphere. These two movements are in fact different expressions of the same gesture, which is aimed at discovery and at shattering restrictive frameworks. … The discovery embedded in these works concerns the existence of the self and the body as an essence that cannot be decoded, and which is surrounded by systems of signs that point to ‘the thing in itself’ without ever revealing it in its entirety.”

Varda Steinlauf, “Imprisoned within Herself,” in Orit Akta Hildesheim, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2012, pp. 24–26.


Eran Reshef, 2010
“Eran Reshef: Paintings, 2000–2010”
27 June 2011 – 03 September 2011
Varda Steinlauf

“In Reshef’s paintings, time seems to have stopped still. His compositions demand of the viewer to examine them in a sustained manner, which goes beyond an appreciation of the technical skill involved in the artist’s highly precise act of representation. The objects in these paintings are all familiar …; at the same time, the powerful presence of these painted objects exceeds their importance in the real world. The representational process charges these objects with multiple layers of meaning, and endows them with an ambivalent character. The details that make up each of the compositions – the play of different textures, forms, and colors – appear as if seen through the lens of a magnifying glass, so that the presence of these elements is at once poignant and crude. Reshef’s … realism is not restricted to a faithful representation of the visible … The highly complex nature of his paintings is the result of carefully created effects, which at times give rise to an experience bordering on the sublime. … Reshef’s art is intimately connected to life and is inspired by it, and his paintings raise existential questions concerning our life in this place and the values we associate with it.”

Varda Steinlauf, “Eran Reshef: A Painting that Appeared,” in: Eran Reshef: Paintings 2000–2001, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2011 p. 68–64.


Maia Zer, 2009
“Maïa Zer: Paintings”
25 June 2010 – 02 October 2010
Varda Steinlauf

Maïa Zer’s paintings are based on the observation of nature, and on an attempt to capture the fleeting and the ephemeral…. [T]he artist documents her immediate reality and surroundings from a highly personal point of view. At times she ‘cuts’ a fragment out of the continuum of reality in order to serve her painterly intensions; in other instances, she entertains a dialogue with various paintings from the history of art. Early on in her career, Zer decided to paint in a figurative style, while selectively choosing the details she represents. Her portraits and landscape paintings reveal her interest in the various components underlying the representational process, and express a renewed appreciation of pictorial truth. As such, they endow the temporal dimension of artistic representation with a new meaning, which enfolds within it past and present, self and other. … Figurative, realist paintings of the kind created by Zer demand sustained observation and an in-depth analysis, and are charged with multiple and ambivalent meanings. Their complexity stems from the psychological effects to which the viewer is subjected, their use of symbolism, their thrust towards beauty, and the meticulous attention to formal values.”

Varda Steinlauf, “On Maïa Zer’s Landscape Paintings and Portraits,” in: Maïa Zer – Paintings, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2010, n.p.


Amnon David Ar, 2008
“Amnon David Ar”
2 April 2009
Dr. Doron J. Lurie

“In the past ten years, Amnon David Ar has painted almost one hundred self-portraits using a variety of techniques, styles and representational modes. Some of these portraits portray his figure in a realist, true-to-life style and colors, with paint daubs that are all but invisible. In some drawings, whose atmosphere is Renaissance-like, his figure is produced by rhythmic hatching in white pencil on black or grayish paper. Others depict his face in oil, with dry, scratchy brush strokes and monochromatic palette. In one case he appears, his face distorted, out of a thick-smoke vortex, appearing from the void looking like Mephisto.  In another case he looks like an innocent boy, who appears to be almost surprised at meeting us, his viewers. In yet another image he exhibits deep self-awareness accompanied by endless curiosity, his direct gaze seeming to reproach us. … One may assume, with good reason, that at the center of all these portraits is Ar himself. However, he is not their sole subject, and not even the main one. It seems that it is the very pursuit of painting, and of self-portrait as a genre within it, that is the subject at the heart of these images.


Aya Lurie, “Amnon David Ar and the Art of Self-Portraiture,” in: Amnon David Ar, ed. Doron J. Lurie, exh. cat. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2009, n.p. (in Hebrew).