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In November 2020, Steeve Nassima and Suzanne Landau launched The Nassima Landau Foundation. Italy-born Nassima is known for moving his career beyond the world of diamonds to the art world, expanding his creativity as a long-standing collector, advisor, and patron of contemporary art. Czechoslovakia-born Suzanne is synonymous with the Israeli arts scene, having worked for over three decades as a museum curator and director at institutions like the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum.
This summer, the foundation is showing “Parallel Worlds” and “The Show Will Go On.” Whitewall spoke with Nassima about why they feel a social responsibility to show international art in Tel Aviv.
WHITEWALL: How would you describe The Nassima Landau Foundation’s mission?
STEEVE NASSIMA: Liberalism, freedom of speech, and openness needs to be protected, cherished, and supported in every way we can when we can. These are vital institutions. We all know that politics evolve and change and are different streams at different times, but those institutions must be protected and supported because they reinforce our liberties and openness to different opinions and what’s going on in the world.
What we’re doing is not directly connected to what more public institutions are doing—we are a private institution. Our main mission is to bring to Israel, for the first time, international contemporary art, whether it’s from an emerging or an established artist, and to showcase their works in an unprecedented way to the Tel Aviv public and the Israeli crowd in general. It’s never happened before. We’re the first private foundation here in the city. By the buzz that it is creating, and by the press coverage and incredible amount of visitors, we clearly see that there was an enormous need for this.
WW: What is seen in “Parallel Worlds,” on view May 6–June 4?
SN: It’s a spectacular show, curated by Suzanne. It tackles the influence of modern and classic masters of contemporary art. We brought seven artists together, which all made works specifically for the show, among existing works. Some artists—like Daniel Arsham, Chloe Wise, Honor Titus, Onur Hastürk, Alex Gardner, Friedrich Kunath—are just a few names apart a very beautiful show with large-scale works.
WW: Your second presentation this summer, “The Show Will Go On,” is open June 24–August 6. What does the title represent?
SN: It’s a show of a magnitude unseen in Israel, and one that I rarely see abroad. It’s to mark the end of the pandemic and the transition to something more of a normal life again. We have an incredible group of artists that have agreed to participate—like George Condo, Hernan Bas, André Butzer, Josh Sperling, Alex Katz, and Henry Taylor. It’s an incredible show.
WW: How do you choose what the foundation will present? Is there a specific starting point, like an artist, a movement, or a medium?
SN: It starts with an idea. We look for the artists that match the concept. We have total freedom of execution and thoughts. We aren’t bound to any artists because we don’t represent artists. That’s what makes them so appealing to the people here, and to the artists as well. They’re mostly group shows, which are mostly unheard of here. We also look for artists who have never been shown before in Israel, which is an absurdity in itself. Israel is a cultural country, it has deep history, it’s an economic success. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be exposed to contemporary art.
We want something that can enrich the local art scene in Tel Aviv. There is a social responsibility link to it. We want to make sure what we bring here makes sense, is of artistic relevance, and fits the curatorial line that we have for each show.
WW: You’ve supported the Black Lives Matter movement and mentioned it was an important movement for artists to be a part of, highlighting participating artists’ works like Danielle Orchard and Jammie Holmes. Are there any artists that you’re collecting or presenting now that are responding to environmental or social issues?
SN: In “Parallel Worlds,” we are very happy to have Onur Hastürk—a Turkish painter who is extraordinarily talented and not so known in Israel. When you look at the political situation, one might not think a Turkish is the first nationality of an artist you’d see in Israel. But we are very happy to build those bridges and be open to any culture.
WW: How has the pandemic impacted you?
SN: We opened the foundation at the peak of the pandemic. People looked at Suzanne and I like we were crazy. It was an insane initiative at such a bad moment in time. But I’ve always believed that there is nothing like a good crisis to reset or change direction.