Bad art or bad taste?
Breaking an unwritten Israeli taboo that discourages humor in the depiction of Holocaust images, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem this week exhibited the works of a student who presents Adolf Hitler as an icon to be laughed at.
Nir Avigad’s art installation, arranged on a large board on a wall of the school, features the face of the Third Reich dictator in various uncomplimentary or counterintuitive settings and themes — as a dog, as the face on a Russian babushka doll, as a bearded Theodor Herzl.
“I don’t think there is anything offensive here,” Avigad said. “Just like Marilyn Monroe is an icon of beauty, the Dalai Lama is an icon of peace and Mother Teresa is an icon of mercy, Hitler is an icon — an icon of evil.”
“The world has built a taboo around this subject. It’s forbidden to research, forbidden to develop, to touch, to laugh,” he said. “There is a near absolute dearth of image depicting one of the most infamous people in human history.”
As part of his presentation, Avigad set up a Web site called The Daily Hitler, where he uploads a different image of Hitler each day.
“We don’t restrict our students, unless it is a serious affront to good taste,” said Arnon Zuckerman, Bezalel’s president.
The Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel found the exhibit offensive. “We leave it up to Nir’s instructor to explain to him that art and design are not exempt from sentiment,” according to a statement form the group. “We did not find the piece humorous at all.”