The pleasure of Perlstein’s art collection

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Sylvio Perlstein appears as a happy bunny. Long past the official retirement age – his chronological time on dry land, so far, is not available for public consumption – the 80-nonagenarian continues to accumulate works of art. But not just any old painting, sketch, sculpture, installation or any other discipline that appeals to him.

The collector born in Belgium, raised in Brazil and residing in Israel limits his scope of acquisition to the 20th century and up to the present day, but it’s about as precise as it gets.

His eclectic look at the art world is currently on display at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (TAMA), along with objects from his private collection, under the very suggestive title of “Hey! Did you know that Art does not exist… ”

Asking myself if this reflects an improvised and, perhaps, irreverent approach to the world of culture in general, I asked Perlstein if he liked jazz.

I did a blank when he replied that he had a penchant for Latin sounds and rhythms and, in particular, for bossa nova. Since he spent much of his formative years in Brazil, that seems perfectly reasonable.

I was also curious to hear what he thought of Gustav Metzger and his Self-Destructing Art. Metzger was a naturalized Jewish British artist who escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager and expressed the horrors inflicted on humanity by war by creating works incorporating corrosive and destructive substances.

Reading a little between the lines, one could conclude that the name Perlstein chose for his Tel Aviv exhibition implies that art should not be taken too seriously, and, therefore, it should not be taken. It may not be wrong if artistic creations gradually deteriorate and even completely disintegrate.

I didn’t go overboard with this line of inquiry either. The collector simply replied, enigmatically, with a wink: “I have another idea of ​​art. I think you shouldn’t go on vacation. You should rather buy art.

In fact, the title comes from a phrase that appears in a work by French artist Ben Vautier, now 86, known professionally by his first name. The quote greets visitors at the entrance to the exhibition.

In the exhibition catalog, Perlstein offers a glimpse of his perspective on art in general. “I feel passionate about the things that disturb me, that intrigue me, make me uncomfortable.”

All of the above feelings are palpably manifested through the four exhibition spaces, organized by David Rosenberg from France in collaboration with TAMA curator Noa Rosenberg. The Frenchman has been a willing training partner of Perlstein for a few years now, noting the collector’s attributes of “passion, but also flair, daring, tenacity, friendship”.

This last point is particularly important, as many of Perlstein’s acquisitions and his interest in art followed his meeting and got to know some of the artists well. Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, for example, were good friends.

So, is this the common denominator that runs through the collection? This is, it seems, a contributing factor, although there is a little disagreement among the Conservatives on this.

“There is logic,” presumes Noa Rosenberg. “Pleasure is logic,” she adds.

His French counterpart thinks there is more than that.

“It’s very complex,” he said, returning to the aforementioned intimacy. “It’s a very personal and very unique collection.”

DAVID ROSENBERG knows Perlstein and its history well and tells how the collector fell in love with art and its accumulation.

“It all started in Rio de Janeiro, where Sylvio was a child.

It seems the youngster enjoyed life in Brazil, where his family fled when the Nazis occupied Belgium.

“He lived 100 meters from the [famed] Copacabana [beach].

“He was a football player and was also part of the water polo team. Apparently Perlstein was quite an athlete. “In fact, he was part of the Brazilian Olympic team and also played at Maccabiah [Games in Israel]. That was a few years ago, ”laughs Rosenberg.

Perlstein’s usual route to the beach was through a flower shop, which, unexpectedly, was to be the catalyst for the young man’s enduring love for art.

“For a few days, he saw a painting at a florist,” Rosenberg continues. “He loved painting. To this day he doesn’t know why, but he walked into the store and said to the owner, “I love the paint and want to buy. “

It was easier said than done, but Perlstein wasn’t about to give up. “The florist said no and he was there to decorate his shop. But, if you know Sylvio, he can’t take no for an answer. Eventually he got the painting, and that was the start of it all. From that day forward he knew that if he saw something he liked it was possible to get it.

Rosenberg estimates that the TAMA display makes up about 15% of the entire collection, so clearly Perlstein has “achieved” a lot over the years.

It is not just a self-centered personal dissemination of beloved works. Yes, some of the objects exude an impression of fun and joviality, but it is also a serious display of works of great value, some of which are iconic creations of modern art.

Take, for example, Duchamp’s LHOOQ, a famous or notorious work by Dada that pokes fun at Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic 16th-century painting, Mona Lisa. In the twentieth-century parody, the woman with the mysterious smile has a pencil mustache, while the titular acronym is a play on words that suggests that the lady in question is, to say the least, hot at the trot.

Other notable works include Man Ray’s 1941 oil painting Apple, Book, Knife, Legs, which makes his first bow in this country; the chilling photographic work of American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, 76, Busy Going Crazy; some objects from the work of Dada pioneer Max Ernst; and the striking Mask for Firdusi by Marcel Janco, which draws on the expressive spirit of the performances of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where the Dada movement was officially launched in the summer of 1916.

Andy Warhol and pop art, naturally, get a decent look, and there are delightful exhibits of Henri Magritte, pioneering American photographer Irving Penn, and life-size polyester and fiberglass by Duane Hanson Young Shopper catches the eye. and massage the funny bone.

“Hey! Did you know that Art does not exist…” ends January 9, 2022.

For more information: www.tamuseum.org.il

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