Storied Tel Aviv: Bringing Art to Nature

An Exhibit Set in an Ancient UNESCO Cave

Interview with artist

ivo bisignano

When the whole world came to a complete stop, it seemed like the creative spirit did too. Galleries and museums were closed and online activities became more of a reality. The days of visiting an exhibit and fully absorbing the work of an artist seemed long gone, but that didn’t stop one Italian artist, based in Tel Aviv, who decided it was time to bring an exhibit in an outdoor space so people could once again appreciate art, especially when it was needed most.

Originally from Sicily, and trained as an architect, Ivo Bisignano is a dreamer and an artist with many different souls. Beginning with fashion illustration early in his career, he has gone on to make significant contributions in media ranging from sculptures to paintings and video animation. After 20 years of working in the fashion industry in Milan for big names like Prada, Missoni, Fratelli Rossetti and Condé Nast, the fast paced and materialistic fashion environment took a bit of a toll on the artist. When Ivo decided to move to Tel Aviv to be with his partner, he realized that there was much more to be done with his art. 

Hand-drawn animations at Ivo Bisignano’s Human Forms at Beit Guvrin National Park

Ivo: When I first visited Tel Aviv from Milan, I was wearing so much jewellery and colourful designer clothing, and I immediately realized how this city was so different from Milan. It was slower paced and less about aesthetics. The art scene in Tel Aviv is incredible too. So when I realized that art was my path, I decided to move to be with my husband and start focusing more on my art. 

Living in Tel Aviv for the past five years, travel was an essential part of Ivo’s work. From Tel Aviv, the artist would travel between Milan, London and Florence every 20 days, but of course that all changed when every country was on lockdown. After losing his father in February and staying put in Tel Aviv once travel was suspended, Ivo thought how easy it was for him to go into a black hole of depression. Instead, Ivo focused on his work and decided to bring some life back into the city by curating a safe exhibit, entitled Human Forms, in the ancient Southern Cave at Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park outside of Jerusalem. 

This archeological site, formed by the hands of man, dates as far back as the First Temple Period (112 BCE). The Southern Cave served as marble quarries during the Byzantine and early Muslim periods, providing building materials for cities on the Levantine coastal plain. This UNESCO cave is the perfect physical metaphorical setting for Ivo’s innovative project. The shapes and grooves in the cave were created by human hands as a prehistoric form of art, whilst original video works by Ivo were screened on the walls, creating a relationship between human form and the emotional world. 

Ivo Bisignano’s Human Forms at Beit Guvrin National Park

How did you prepare for this exhibit, and manage to pull it off during Covid?

Ivo: Well I am a dreamer [he laughs]. I did this alone – I didn’t work with curators or a gallery. I created this exhibit by myself. This UNESCO space allowed me to reflect on what was important today and I wanted to bring art to nature. I would visit the cave and make drawings to understand where everything should go and which size of videos I should use. I didn’t want to ruin the naturalness of the space and wanted to make it a bit more of an immersive experience. 

The Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park reopened to the public for the first time in 20 years to serve as the location for this highly innovative Human Forms exhibition, which opened in August and runs through to November 2020. The show is based around namesake wooden sculptures of “Human Forms”, as well as visual artworks and hand-drawn animations that span the contemporary artist’s decades-long career up to present time. The exhibition is accompanied by exclusive texts from leading art and creative luminaries, including Robert C. Morgan, Binnie A Dansby, Sir Peter Cook and Yotam Ottolenghi. 

What was the inspiration behind this exhibit?

Ivo: When you visit a gallery, we have this point of view to look straight ahead into a piece of artwork, but I wanted the visitors to look everywhere, all around them. From the sculptures to the video installations hitting the cave above them, I just wanted them to look around all over and fully experience the cave and installations together. With this exhibit, I wanted to change the perspective and point of view. I wanted to break the rules and celebrate every inch of this cave. Nature, in some way, is part of the exhibit – the way the shadow of the trees hits the installations; the sound of the birds chirping while you’re looking at an installation; feeling the breeze of the wind; it’s really a theatrical piece. 

How do you bring the inspiration of where you’re from into your work in Tel Aviv?

Ivo: For my art, it’s all about connection and sharing. The connection is my background from Sicily and Milan, and I want to share that with other people. I think it’s also very important to share my feelings, emotions and experiences with people.

Human Forms is an example of how public art can be exhibited in national parks and public spaces to allow for physical distancing. Moving art and exhibits from indoor galleries to outdoor spaces might be the way of the future. 

Ivo Bisignano’s Human Forms at Beit Guvrin National Park

Human Forms by Ivo Bisignano will run until November 2020. To make a reservation to visit Human Forms, visit the Beit Guvrin National Park website, here

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