By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Jake Elbogen’s interest in art was sparked by a purchase he made several decades ago, while still a yeshiva bachur learning in Israel. “One day I noticed someone selling artwork on the street and I stopped to buy a picture of the Satmar Rebbe,” recalls the personable Flatbush resident who is in the real-estate business and has been actively involved in the field of art for the past ten years.
Impressed by the quality of his purchase, Jake gave the artist his contact information. “Some time later, I received a phone call from him. He had arrived in New York with no place to stay and was all alone.” Despite his limited possessions, the artist did have something of importance—the telephone number of the yeshiva bachur who had purchased his painting of the Satmar Rebbe. Information in hand, he dialed Jake’s number. For the next six months, the artist took up lodging in his host’s office, and the two have maintained their friendship throughout the years.
• • •
As co-owners of Iconic Art Gallery, the newly opened auction house, Bina Levy and Jake Elbogen hope to cultivate an interest in Jewish art and culture and are curators of the highly anticipated auction to be held in upstate New York this weekend. That the event has elicited international interest is not surprising. Elegant and inviting, the Sullivan Hotel in Rockhill is the picture-perfect venue to showcase the 200 items of Israeli, Judaic, and international art included in this not-to-be-missed live auction. Featured items, each a work of art, will include oil paintings, watercolors, lithographs, a selection of mezuzos from the early 1800s through contemporary times, and a Haggadah from the personal library of Rabbi Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, zt’l.
Printed in 1561 in Riva di Trento by Dr. Yaakov Marcaria with Zevach Pesach commentary by Abarbanel, it is the only edition with rules and customs for both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. The Haggadah is in excellent condition and bears the stamp of Rabbi Hirsch on the title page, coming from his personal library. There are only about 30 Haggados known to be printed in the 16th century that survive today, this being one of them. What makes this Haggadah even more interesting is that it was printed via a partnership of Cardinal Cristoforo Madrucci and Dr. Yaakov Marcaria during the Inquisition. In excellent condition, the Haggadah is a beautiful, complete edition of an extremely rare book.
“Iconic is pleased to present a spectacular collection of works by Israeli and Jewish artists, both classic and contemporary,” said Bina Levy. “The subject matter ranges from portraits of important rabbis and scenes of talmidim learning portrayed by Eastern European artists to modern scenes of Jewish life by Israeli painters such as Shmuel Charuvi, Zvi Malnovitzer, Zvi Raphaeli, and Huvy. We are also honored to include works from such international artists as Marc Chagall, Emmanuel Mané-Katz, Issachar Ber Ryback, and Boris Schatz, founder of Israel’s famed Bezalel School of Art. The artist adopted the name Bezalel for the school he founded in 1906, and Rav Kook wrote a touching letter in support of its creation. He saw the renaissance of art in the Holy Land as a symbol of the regeneration of the Jewish people in its own land, landscape, and birthplace. Judaism in the Diaspora, removed from a natural connection with its own historic environment, was inevitably spiritually alienated. Only in Israel would an authentic Jewish aesthetic emerge, strengthened by and in turn strengthening Judaism spiritually.
“Some of these artists were in Paris and had ‘heimeshe’ upbringings—a factor inherent in their paintings,” Jake explains. “Although the paintings depict cosmopolitan settings, the shtetel roots of the artists are inherent in the work.”
Bina Levy concurs. “Despite having achieved international celebrity, their artwork always reflected the artist’s Yiddishkeit. This collection is representative of those pieces. Among the great artists represented by Iconic is Yitzhak Frankel (Frenel), a great-grandson of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev. Born in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1891, Frankel studied art at the Art Academy of Odessa, and studied under the painter Alexandra Ekstein.
In 1919, he sailed to Israel on the ship Ruslan with the first settlers of the Third Aliyah. In 1920 he established the artists’ cooperative Hatomer and also established an artists’ studio in the Herzlia Gymnasium, where evening classes were given in painting and sculpture. Frankel took part in the first art exhibition in Israel and exhibited abstract paintings. Toward the end of 1920, Frankel traveled to Egypt, where he exhibited part of his work, and continued to Paris. He perfected his studies in Paris at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts and the Grande-Chaumiere, where he studied sculpting at the studio of Matisse. He was in close contact with the artists of the Ecole de Paris. Frankel is considered one of the most important Jewish painters of the Ecole de Paris, along with Soutine, Kikoine, Mané-Katz, Kremegne, and Paskin.
“Several avant-garde modern works are also represented in the sale, reflecting the innovative Jewish spirit,” Mrs. Levy adds. “We cordially invite you to join us at the Sullivan Hotel for an exciting and fun-filled evening this Motzaei Shabbos. Whatever your price point, Iconic Auction has the perfect piece to enhance your home beautiful. Our home is a source of pride and joy as we celebrate simchas Shabbos, simchas ha’chag, and milestone events. Whether you wish to spend $100 or $200 to purchase a beautiful unsigned painting worth considerably more or are a collector of fine art, you will find the perfect piece of art at the auction.”
Jake adds, “Our gala reception is a not-to-be-missed event, a fun and entertaining way to spend an enjoyable Motzaei Shabbos. Join us for wine and cheese, discussions, and introductions, and then savor the art. We look forward to welcoming you.”
A live auction will be held at noon on Sunday, August 4, at the Sullivan Hotel, 283 Rock Hill Drive, Rock Hill, New York, Exit 109 on Route 17.
The auction preview dates are Thursday, August 1, 5:00–9:00 p.m., and Friday, August 2, 1:00–4:00 p.m.; the gala reception is to be held on Motzaei Shabbos following Havdalah until 2:00 a.m. v