The colorful sculpture that once graced Bialik Square in the center of Tel Aviv is no more. The sculpture, designed for the square by artist Nahum Gutman in the 1970’s, rose out of a circular fountain and recounted 4000 years of Tel Aviv-Jaffa history in tiled mosaics. Today, a pile of dirt sits in the middle of the square, and Gutman’s piece sits, disassembled, in storage. Later this year, the city plans to reassemble the sculpture and move it to Rothschild Boulevard.
City authorities told Ynet (Hebrew link) that the decision to remove the sculpture was made a year ago, in coordination with the Gutman family, which supports the move. The reason for moving the sculpture is the fact that it partially blocked the facade of the old city hall building, which is slated for renovation and will house the Museum of the History of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. In place of Gutman’s mosaics, a “biological pond,” similar to the pond that existed pre-Gutman, will become the square’s new centerpiece.
Bialik Square in its former glory, with Gutman’s sculpture intact (courtesy Flikr).
Bialik Square sits in one of the most interesting and historic areas in the city, between Allenby and Ben Yehuda Streets. This one short street contains four museums – in addition to the Museum of the History of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the poet Haim Nahman Bialik’s house (Beit Bialik) has been preserved and serves as a museum and gallery, the Ruben Museum displays the work of famous Israeli artist Reuven Rubin and a small Bauhaus museum has recently opened in a Bauhaus-style building across from Beit Bialik – as well as a synagogue and music library.
Bialik Street also boasts some of the most interesting and well-preserved local architecture in the city, and is seen by many as an open-air museum displaying various historic building styles specific to Tel Aviv. Recently, the street’s residents defeated a plan promoted by the Tel Aviv Municipality for an underground parking lot, which would have been built beneath the square.
So what is the logic behind removing a piece of art which recounts the history of the city (and is itself a piece of the city’s history) from a historic street which is slated to host a museum of the city’s history? This prophet is stumped.