Bait & Noy | Jul 2012

Even the most seasoned visitors to Milan's Salone Internazionale del Mobile in April were astonished by an eye-catching show held in the city's off-piste Ventura Lambrate district. None of the designers was a big star. Few are known outside their native Israel. Yet here was clever, creative thinking at its most spine-tingling. The show's title, Promisedesign, suggests the Israeli design scene is a work in progress. Its co-curator, Ely Rozenberg, an Israeli designer living in Italy, says: "In Israel, the culture of contemporary design has only recently been rediscovered." Mel Byars, a design historian, puts it even more succinctly: "Israeli design is the world's best-kept secret." "There's outstanding creativity and talent in Israel – the work is very fresh, original and independent," confirms Janice Blackburn, a collector and curator who mounted the UK's first selling exhibition of designs by students and graduates of Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design at Sotheby's in May. The show piqued interest among collectors – not least because 50 sets of London-based Israeli designer Ron Arad's Pirouette cutlery (pictured overleaf) were donated and sold at the show for the first time to support the initiative. Blackburn's show kicked off several Israeli design events at Sotheby's. A selling exhibition of contemporary work by young, emerging designers takes place from October 23 to coincide with the opening of Tel Aviv Museum of Art's new wing, while Sotheby's Israeli Art Week in December in New York will, for the first time, include contemporary design.
"We decided to focus on Israeli designers this year because we've been really struck by the work we've seen – it's so fresh and talented – and we wanted to create a platform for it," says Sonya Bekkerman, senior vice-president at Sotheby's New York. For collectors this might seem a new category. Yet Israel's design roots stretch back to the 1930s when Bauhaus-trained architects emigrated