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Karavan, Dani


KARAVAN, DANI (1930– ), Israeli painter, sculptor, and architect. Karavan was born in Tel Aviv when it was still full of orchards and plantations. One of his first artistic memories is of the sand dunes where, as a boy, he first sculpted forms in play. These sand structures, which involve building and digging, can be seen to anticipate his mature style. Karavan studied art in the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem under Mordecai *Ardon. He remained a kibbutz member until 1950 for ideological reasons. This orientation could be seen later in his public art. Karavan continued his art studies in Florence, where he learned fresco techniques at the Accademia Della Belle Arti. In 1960–73 he created stage sets for Israeli theaters and for Israeli ballets. This can be seen as the beginning of his spatial work.

Karavan was known for his environmental sculptures and installations. He won the Israel Prize in 1977. While he moved between Tel Aviv, Paris, and Florence his works were shown all over the world.

Karavan's artistic language contained a limited number of forms. The basic form was taken from the architectural world. The dome, the pyramid, and the stair were integral components of his art. The location of these forms in the environment and in a sculptural space created a link between them. In spite of the repetitive style, each work looked different because the artist created a clear connection between the work and the chosen environment. Karavan emphasized the difference between sculptures, for example, by the selection of the material. In the desert near Beersheba he used bare concrete, in Jerusalem he used chiseled stone, and in Tel Aviv he used white concrete. (Negev Monument, 1963–68, Beersheba; Environment Sculpture, 1980, Givat Ram, Jerusalem; White Square, 1977–88, Tel Aviv). Another material used as a popular symbol in Karavan's works was the olive tree that grew between walls or above them. In some works the tree grew upside down. The sea also became a part of his works, especially in his impressive Passages, The Memorial to Walter Benjamin (1994, Portbou, Spain).

Karavan's most famous piece of art in Israel is the wall relief in the Knesset Assembly Hall, in Jerusalem (Jerusalem City of Peace, 1966). The location of the wall behind the speaker's podium made it a component of the visual forms that constitute the Israeli collective identity. One of Karavan's largest permanent works is three kilometers long. (Exe Majeur, 1980–86, Cergy Pontoise, France).


Tel Aviv Museum, Dani Karavan Passages (1997); Institut Valenciá d'art Modern, Dani Karavan (2002).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]

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