Meir Agassi, A Railway in the Clouds, 1992-1998, collage on a book cover 27.3 x 20.8 cm, collection of the Museum of Art, Ein Harod, photo: Studio Warhaftig Venezian Ltd.
The Meir Agassi Museum
Collections, Works, Souvenirs
February 6 - July 17, 2010
Curator: Yaniv Shapira
"The Meir Agassi Museum" is the meta-title that Meir Agassi gave to the entirety of his oeuvre from 1992 on. When this "Museum" was shown for the first time, in 2003, it offered an immediate and comprehensive encounter with Agassi's artistic world - born of his passions, moments of distress and emotional difficulty. In the time that has elapsed since, growing attempts have been made to decode his late, mature work, which is related to numerous contexts. His artistic conception, as given expression within the framework of his "museum," remains refreshing and highly relevant - as is made obvious in the current exhibition, which focuses on the place of collecting in his work.
The exhibition "The Meir Agassi Museum: Collections, Works, Souvenirs," reveals that each of the departments in Agassi's "museum" - including the works from the studio, the souvenirs, the archive, the library and the diaries - is a derivative of one of the collections; they each play an equally important part within the museum framework. Agassi attributed great importance to the principle of collecting, which equaled his interest in self-portraiture, fictional identities, lost biographies and in the mediums of drawing, painting and photography. This exhibition features three aspects of "The Meir Agassi Museum," which reflect different dimensions of this unique engagement with collecting.
In addition to Meir Agassi's library, his estate was revealed to contain collections that each includes dozens of similar objects, such as bunny rabbits, miniatures and old cameras. This exhibition also features assemblage boxes made out of wood, tin and plastic - miniature, three-dimensional worlds which combine truth and fiction, reality and imagination, fantasy and memory. Their contents are composed of the signatures and stamps of various artists and institutions, wood and plastic objects, miniature dolls, paint tubes, dice, jewelry and more. Their syntaxes reveal the influence of some of Agassi's favorite artists, most notably Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers. The many collage postcards created by Agassi may be seen as two-dimensional translations of his assemblage boxes. They contain images that reflect his areas of interest, such as architecture, film, children's books, Victorian fashion, anatomy and pornography; they also house representations of collections dedicated to musical instruments, insects, dried flowers and gems, whose images were mostly culled from various trade magazines, reveal the desire, curiosity and urge to collect characteristic of Agassi.
The main part of the "Meir Agassi Museum" is composed of hundreds of works that bear the signatures of Agassi and of the artists he invented - Mo Kramer, Susan Lipski and David Strauss. The works by Agassi mainly reveal his concern with self-identity and with the relationship between image and word. Special attention is given to the "artist's books" he created, and which he viewed as a studio inside a studio - an ideal space that enabled him to experiment with different visual dialects before they assumed a binding form.
Displayed alongside Agassi's works are works by Kramer, Lipski and Strauss, which are attributed to the times and places in which their biographies are anchored. As such, they enabled Agassi to represent various aspects of his artistic desires and passions. Kramer's body of works is mostly composed of drawings - a medium which gave expression to a range of influences and artistic styles. Lipski's text works are related to conceptual art and to her work as a photographer and collector. The poem dedicated to her by Agassi, "The Mind is a Beautiful Museum," is stamped with the museum stamp and is thus clearly an artwork. Strauss' body of works, meanwhile, enabled Agassi to experience a sense of unbridled artistic liberty as a true "outsider," a position with which he was deeply identified.
Like every museum, the "Meir Agassi Museum" has a souvenir shop. Agassi wrote that among the goals of his museum are the study and development of its collections, collaborations with artists and other institutions, the publication of scholarly texts and the exposure of the artworks to the public at large. He argued that the museum "should produce and sell its own souvenirs, its own products, with its own logo and slogan inscribed or stamped, engraved, marked, or printed on it." For him, an absence of advertising for museum exhibitions and installations contradicted the internal logic of the museum institution, whose role is to define a canon and shape historical memory.
Agassi worked vigorously to realize his museal vision, including the production of dozens of objects for the museum store: various-sized memory boxes, original artworks, numbered series, posters, catalogues, reproductions, envelopes, postcards, photographs, diaries and more. When it came to these products, Agassi himself was the graphic designer, typographer, editor and writer. "To buy souvenirs from Meir Agassi Museum would be great fun!" he wrote in one of his notes.