Yaacov Agam

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A world-renowned kinetic artist, Yaacov Agam pioneered a new form of art that contemplates progress, time, and the role of the viewer.

Agam has become one of the most influential modern artists since his first solo exhibition in 1953. He encourages viewers to reflect on artistic creation and the spiritual values of society through transformative art.

His works are collected worldwide and he has participated in major museum exhibitions all over the world.

 

 

 

AGAM: PERSONAL HISTORY

Agam was born in 1928 in Rishon LeZion, Israel, to an Orthodox family. Agam attended art school at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He later moved to Zurich, Switzerland in 1949. In 1950, he studied color theory under the mentorship of artists Johannes Itten and Max Bill.

Renowned architecture critic and historian Sigfried Giedion helped shape Agam’s artistic path while the artist took courses at the ETH Zurich University, inspiring Agam to transform the concept of static paintings.

“In life you look at art and it doesn’t change, but everything changes, but you don’t know how it will change, so you have to go beyond the visible,” Agam once said. “You have to get the notion that what you see can at any moment disappear to be replaced with something else.”

 

In 1951, Agam moved to Paris. He held his first solo exhibition two years later at the Galerie Craven in Paris. He quickly grew in fame for his innovative approach, encouraging spectators to participate in art during a time when this was rarely expected. A year later he exhibited three large mobile paintings at the Salon des Realities Nouvelles. This was followed by an exhibition at the Galerie Denise Rene in 1955 titled “Le Mouvement.”

Following these exhibitions, Agam established himself as a pioneer of the kinetic art movement. Since the 1950s, Agam has experimented with new and diverse media, incorporating practices such as painting, sculpture, spatial installation, theater, architecture, writing, digital technology, and education. Regardless of the medium, Agam has remained loyal to the principles and spirit of his early works.

Yaacov Agam Park West Gallery

Rainbow Visual Prayer” (2015), Yaacov Agam. Viewed from five angles.

Agam has achieved international acclaim, receiving multiple commissions and honors and creating public art installations throughout New York, Chicago, and Paris. He even developed a visual learning method for early education curricula that was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

His artwork can be found in permanent museum collections all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

In 2010, Agam became the highest-selling living Israeli artist when his artwork, “Growth,” sold for $698,000 at auction. As further testament to his creativity and success, the Yaacov Agam Museum of Art opened in 2017 in Rishon LeZion, Israel.

 

AGAM: STYLE AND INFLUENCES

Agam’s upbringing played a major role in shaping Agam’s artistic style, such as following the religious commandment of not making graven images. Agam’s nonrepresentational style is an integration of formalist art with that of the Kabbalah (the study of Hebrew mysticism). As such, Agam’s artistic aesthetic is non-figurative, relying instead on geometric shapes, sculpted lines, and bright colors.

The artist incorporates the element of movement and time into his art, inviting viewers to participate with his artwork. When physically passing by an Agam work, the image dynamically changes at various angles. By relying on viewer perception to complete the composition, each work is never truly complete or wholly visible. In this way, Agam transcends representation by denying it.

Agam suggests that his artwork be viewed as intimate visual prayers. He intends for each work to be a journey for the viewer to enjoy and participate in his prayers of hope and peace.

“If you know there is more than what you see, you see the world differently,” Agam says. “You see it as an unexpected, continuous event.”

Agam is the innovator of the “Agamograph,” which uses a lenticular lens to cause his imagery to change when viewed from different angles. He created this groundbreaking medium in 1971.

 

AGAM: ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • 1967 – Documentary: “Possibilities of Agam.”
  • 1968 – Guest lecturer at Harvard University.
  • 1980 – Featured in the French television documentary “L’aventure de l’art moderne.”
  • 2014 – Agam’s “Faith-Visual Pray” was presented to Pope Francis.
  • Agam writes extensively about his work and has had several books published on his imagery, concepts, and exhibitions. These books include “Agam” (1980), “Agam: Beyond the Visible” (1997) and “Agam: The Elysee Salon” (2007).

Awards

  • 1963 – “Artistic Research” prize from the Sao Paulo Biennale, Brazil.
  • 1974 – Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Given by the French government to individuals to recognize them for their significant contributions to the arts, literature, or furthering these fields.
  • 1975 – Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the Tel Aviv University.
  • 1977 – Medal of the Council of Europe.
  • 1985 – Sandberg Prize from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
  • 1985 – “Homage a Mondrian” for Le Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles.
  • 1985 – Appointed Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by Jack Lang, France’s Minister of Culture.
  • 1985 – Palette d’Or at the International Festival at Cagnes-sur-Mer.
  • 1989 – Grand Prize at the First International Biennale in Nagoya, Japan, ARTECH ’89.
  • 1996 – The Jan Amos Comenius Medal by UNESCO for his “Agam Method” visual education program.
  • 2017 – “Warrior for Truth” award from the Algemeiner.

 

Museum Retrospectives

  • 1972 – The Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.
  • I980 – “Beyond the Visible,” the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  • 1989 – Isetan Museum in Tokyo, Daimaru Museum in Osaka and Kawasaki, City Museum, Japan
  • 1996 – Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • 2013 – Group exhibition “Dynamo – a century of light and movement in art” Galeries National du Grand Palais, Paris, France.
  • 2013 – “Beyond the Invisible,” the National Taiwan Museum of Fine arts, Taipei, Taiwan
  • 2016 – “The Magic of Yaacov Agam,” Museum of Geometric and MADI Art, Dallas.
  • 2017 – Opening of the Agam Museum of Art in Rishon LeZion, Israel.

 

Commissions

  • 1969 – Created “Complex Vision” for the Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • 1972 – Georges Pompidou, president of the French Republic, commissioned Agam to create an entire room for the Pompidou Museum known as the Elysee Salon.
  • 1979 – “Reflection and Depth” for the Port Authority of New York.
  • 1979 – “Star of Peace” commemorates peacemaking efforts between Anwar el-Sādāt and Prime Minister Menachem.
  • 1979 – Stained glass windows for the Synagogue Design and Civic Center at Ben-Gurion University.
  • 1986 – The “Fire and Water Fountain,” located in the center of the Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.
  • 1987 – Memorial at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to memorialize victims of the Holocaust.
  • 1999 – Winner’s trophy for the Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem.
  • 2009 – A monumental sculpture for the World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, called “Peaceful Communication with the World.”
  • Creator of the world’s largest menorah, “Hanukkah Menorah,” sponsored by the Lubavitch Youth Organization. The menorah is 32 feet high and more than 4,000 pounds, and recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. It is located in New York City.

 

GALLERY

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