Galleries and Artists of Safed
A few early artists established studios in Safed prior to the Israel War of Independence in 1948. Due to their influence many other well-known Israeli artists came to Tzfat in the ‘50s and ‘60s, developing an artist community which has become an international tourist attraction. The artist community continues to change and evolve, but is still a thriving part of the Tzfat landscape.
In 1934 Yitzhak Frenel, already a well-known artist from Tel Aviv, established a studio in Tzfat. Following the 1948 War of Independence many of his students followed him to Tzfat and set up their own galleries in the burgeoning Artists Quarter. These early pioneers included Moshe Castel, Mordechai Levanon, Ziona Tajar, Shimshon Holtzman, Yehezkel Streichman and Moshe Avni. They were subsequently joined by many other well-known artists including Moshe Rosenthalis, Zvi Erman, Menahem Shemy, Yehudah Amitai, Aryeh Merzer and David Gilboa. Slowly, new artists arrived, creating a thriving artists colony which gave Tzfat a name as the “Bohemian capital of Israel.”
These artists formed themselves into the Safed Artists Colony Association to protect their reputations and support each other. Many of these artists lived in the Tel Aviv area for most of the year and came to Tzfat for a few months each summer to open their galleries and draw inspiration from the Tzfat landscape.
During the ‘70s and into the ‘80s these artists began to age and slowly they, and their children, sold their homes and galleries to newcomers. Young Israeli artists didn’t have the same attachment to Tzfat and preferred to stay in Tel Aviv so the old artists’ homes were purchased by young religious families. This changing demographic altered the character of the Artists Quarter.
Old Jewish Quarter Art
Simultaneously, increasing numbers of artists and gallery owners were noticing that the majority of the tourist groups were spending most of their time in the Old Jewish Quarter where they were visiting the old synagogues and other historic sites of Tzfat. From the early ‘80s onward, new galleries and studios opened along Yosef Caro Street. These included galleries such as Sarah’s Tent, the Nonna Gallery and Tzfat Gallery which now represent Israeli artists who live elsewhere but wish to exhibit in Tzfat.
In addition, local Tzfat artists such as Moreen Greenberg, Asia Katz and Anat Edri and artisans including glassblower Moshe Cohen, silversmith Doron Cohen and the Safed Candle Factory maintain studios and exhibitions in the Old City.
Tzfat Art Genres
Visitors, browsers and collectors can find a wide range of art in Tzfat. Sculptors Victor Halvani, Yonatan Darmon and Haim Azuz exhibit in Tzfat. Tzfat is the home of the art of microcalligraphy as practiced by present-day microcalligraphers Morris Dahan, Moshe Dadon and Moshe Yair. New young English-speaking artists such as Sheva Chaya, Batya Erdstein and Yom Tov have helped to revive the artists community along with Russian-speaking artists such as Masha Orlovitch, Lenoid Zikeev and Robert Rosenberg. And, of course, there are a number of artists who incorporate their study of “Kabbalah --”Jewish mysticism -- with their art including Avraham Lowenthal, Jan Menses, David Friedman and Yakov Kaszemacher.