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Repairing the World, One Brush Stroke at a Time

April 1, 2011 – 9:22 amOne Comment

Aborigines, Chained to a tree (1946) - Yosl Bergner

By Michael Krape

Shaike Snir is not a household name but his causes are.  Together with his wife Irit he is creating a way for artists and their art to deliver outcomes for people in need.

The Israeli-born artist, printmaker and art dealer will open a gallery ‘Alt-Neu I am Art’* in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick on April 5th with a clear mandate: a percentage of every work of art sold at an event will be donated to a charity or a recognised cause.

One that is close to Shaike and Irit’s hearts is the Indigenous community.  Not only were they friends of Lin Onus, arguably Australia’s most important contemporary Aboriginal artist, but Shaike is a close confidant of 90 year-old Yosl Bergner who became a champion of dispossessed Aborigines back in the 1930s.

Bergner was a member of the ‘Angry Penguins’ and counted Sir Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and Arthur Boyd among his friends.  As history has revealed, he was one of the first European artists to document the plight of Aboriginal Australians.

He has given Shaike the right to produce a limited edition of 99 digital prints of a 2004 work created as a companion piece to a remarkable painting from the mid 1940s titled ‘Aborigines chained to a tree’. Bergner refused to sell this work and in 1979 donated it to the National Gallery of Victoria.

Bergner created the original work after reading a newspaper report about a group of four Aborigines chained to a

And the Chains Remained (2004) - Yosl Bergner

tree by the manager of a sheep station in Outback South Australia.  He told Shaike he was moved to tears by the headline:  ‘Chattels, not living beings’, and the parallels with the Jewish experience in Europe.

“Yosl isn’t just a great artist, but an inspirational humanitarian,” Shaike says.  “He may not have lived in Australia for more than half a century, but he is still passionate about addressing the wrongs that were done to Indigenous people.

“Like Yosl I believe we can live without art, but not as well.  If we can use it to make lives better, to influence outcomes and to change how people think, then we have a duty to do that.”

He says that artists are happy to participate with his and Irit’s vision including many who are household names.  And he is encouraging other artists to contact him.

Shaike says more often than not, artists come to their profession with a strong social conscience and use their art to explore themes and ideas.  It also helps them to achieve greater clarity with their emotional and intellectual response to issues of concern.

‘Tikkun Olam’ is a Hebrew term that means to ‘fix or repair the world’.  He argues that artists have it within their power to effect change in those who view their works or understand the motivation behind them.  He says that purpose of the gallery is to support the artists’ in their journey.

Opening exhibition of ALT NEU I AM ART is called ‘Tikkun Olam’. This is the name of the committee from the “Shira Hadasha” synagogue community. Money raised from this first exhibition will help to fund two prizes in memory of William Cooper.  They will help young Aboriginal students continue their studies in the area of Indigenous Health and Education.

The ‘Tikkun Olam’ committee and the gallery are also keen to support Galiamble Men’s Recovery Centre in St Kilda, a cause that is close to some of the artists who live and work in the area.

The exhibition will include the Bergner print titled: “And The Chains Remained” ($700 + GST unframed) and works by a range of other highly regarded artists. 25% of the sale price will be donated to these causes.

It will be officially opened by Associate Professor Mark Baker, who heads the Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Monash University and is Director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization.

The ‘Alt-Neu I am Art’ Gallery is located at 1st Floor, 297a Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick.  Queries should be directed to Shaike Snir on 0417 383 994 or iamartoo AT hotmail.com

* The name comes from the oldest synagogue in Prague, believed to date from 1270 using stones from the Temple in Jerusalem.

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