Yaacov Agam – Jewish Artist (still) celebrated in Paris

Can you imagine this futurist colorful, ultra modern room in the 18th century mansion called the Elysee Palace ?
agam pompidou explained (2)
Yes, the Elysee Place, the Presidential palace in Paris !

In 1972, George Pompidou, then President of France, commissioned a room in the palace to be decorated by the Israeli artist Agam.

The room was covered with French Savonnerie carpets, a glass ceiling and coulerful painted walls, with in the center a shiny chrome ball that reflected the multiple and bright colours.
Georges Pompidou french president
George Pompidou
Any visitor of the palace must have been surprised, shocked and a little disoriented by this colorful installation, that was in such a contrast with the classic 18th century decoration of the elegant Elysee palace.
The French discovered the room only when the successor of President George Pompidou, moved the room to the museum of modern and contemporary art, the Pompidou Center.
Yes, Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, was not a fan of contemporary art and he made the decision to part form the remarkable room
Agam was both upset and happy. Upset, because his project was moved, but happy that anybody in France, living there or visiting, could now admire his room.
agam jewish artist
Yaacov Agam

A little introduction of Agam

Yaacov Agam was born in 1828, in the British Mandate Palestine,, Israel today, in the town of Rishin Lezion.
Rishon Lezion means the first of Jerusalem.
agam birth place
The village was founded in 1882 by Jewish immigrants that fled from the pogroms in Russia.
It was a small settlement in the dunes and despite the lack of water, the village succeeded in farming the land.
The Israeli flag of today was first introduced in Rishon Lezion, when they celebrated the 3 year existence of the village in 1885.
And the Israeli national anthem was composed in Rishon Le Zion in 1887.
Yaacov’s family name was Gipstein, but he changed it to Agam, which was his mother’s name.
His father was the Rabbi of the village and Agam received a religious education.
He was impressed by the second commandment that Moses received: it inspired him throughout his career,.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them
When he grew up, he went to the Jerusalem Art school, Betzalel.
Betzalel was founded by Boris Schtaz, who wanted to promote “ Jewish Art’.
The name of the school has a biblical background, as Betzalel is the first artist mentioned in the Torah.
Betzalel was appointed by God, to design the Arc of the Covenant.
In Exodus 31 you can read: See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,  to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.
So just like Bezalel, Agam became an artist and the founder of the Kinetic art movement.
In Kinetic art, he introduced moveable, transformable art that expressed the dynamic and unexpected nature of reality.
In Kinetic art the viewer participates actively just by watching the piece of art.
Yes, that is the essence of Agam’s art.
It has 3 dimensions, is extremely colourful, is often mixed with natural elements, like water or other artistic forms, like music.
flora goldenberg in tel aviv
The most famous pieces of Agam are two fountains, one near Paris, in the business district, La Defense, and the other fountain, in the center of Dizengof square in Tel Aviv.

Agam also designed the Eurovision trophy when the song contest took place in Jerusalem in 1999.
He designed the largest Hanukiah ever, for the Lubavitcher movement in New York . And the colorful facade of the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv is a remaining heritage of Agam’s golden age.

When you come and visit Paris, we can discover Agam’s work together in an art gallery in the Marais, owned by an old friend of my father, Lilane Zafrani.  Together will will dive into Agam’s work and explore his colourful world.

agam in Paris Espace Meyer

Agam’s Exhibit in Espace Meyer ends on 21st May

Yaacov Agam – Etoile de David – 1983:

Yaacov Agam – Candelabrum – 1979:

Contact Flora Goldenberg for the Jewish Art tour in Paris