Amnon Ben Ami, was named by Dr Eugene Elovic and Prof Arnon Zuckerman, president of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design
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Award-winning artist, Amnon Ben Ami, was named the first prize-winner of the new annual $20,000 art prize for an Israeli artist by Dr Eugene Elovic and Prof Arnon Zuckerman, president of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, at a press conference held in Tel Aviv today.

Tel Aviv, April 18, 2012: During a press conference held at Bezalel Gallery in Tel Aviv on Monday, Amnon Ben Ami was awarded the first-ever Ilana Elovic Bezalel Prize for Painting, named in memory of self-taught Israeli-American artist, Ilana Elovic. The award was presented to Ben Ami by Ilana’s husband, Dr Eugene Elovic, Prof Arnon Zuckerman, president of Bezalel Academy, Rivka Saker, chair of Sotheby’s Israel and artist Michal Rovner.

The prize, which was launched internationally in December in search of a deserving Israeli artist, comprises an award of $20,000 as well as a catalog and solo exhibition at the Bezalel Gallery, Yaffo 23, Jerusalem in November 2012.

The panel of judges included Professor Zuckerman; Professor Nahum Tevet; artist and Bezalel faculty member; Yigal Zalmona, well-known curator; Rovner; and Saker.

“I’m happy that the judges chose you among all the worthy candidates,” said Dr Elovic to Ben Ami. “I’m sure it was not an easy choice for them to make. I hope that this prize will be of assistance to you to advance your art in the future.”

According to Dr Elovic, Ilana never had the opportunity to develop her own talents in a formal way as this artist, who is a Bezalel graduate, had. “If she had had the opportunity, we all know she could’ve been a recognized artist. She never had the opportunity to have an exhibition, but in this way, we felt we could support someone who is talented and encourage him to develop his art further – in her name,” he said.

“I would like to thank Bezalel Academy for giving us, the family, the opportunity to honor the memory of Ilana in such a way. Ilana was an artist who appreciated art. She would’ve been pleased to be honored through such a prestigious art institute. I also want to thank the judges who so generously donated their time and experience to choose a worthy candidate for the award.”

Prof Zuckerman thanked Dr Elovic for choosing Bezalel as the institution that would grant this very significant prize. ”I think it is one of the most prestigious awards in the Israeli art scene. We had 162 candidates for the award; a very high number. We finally narrowed it down to two finalists and eventually chose Amnon, a talented and creative painter,” he said.

Ben Ami has presented numerous solo exhibitions during his 30-year career. These include exhibitions at the Tel Aviv Artists’ Studio, the Chelouche Gallery for Contemporary Art, and the Dvir Gallery, among others. He has received numerous art prizes over the years, including: the Prize to Encourage Creativity from the Ministry of Education and Culture (2008), The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation Award (2006), a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2001), and the Young Artist Award from the Ministry of Education and Culture (1988).

“I’m very honored to have received this award and I want to really thank you,” Ben Ami said to Dr Elovic. “Thank you to the judges, a very impressive list of experts. Recognition from these judges, combined with the financial prize and the exhibition in such a great location, is very meaningful.”

“The response of more than 160 artists shows there was a need for such an important prize,” said Saker. “The process [of choosing the winner] was interesting. We did it in three stages. The first stage was choosing the finalists and from there, we visited the studios and then made the final decision. This was a very experienced group of people, but once we got to the final stage, the decision was unanimous.”

Ben-Ami is a fascinating artist whose works expand the definition of the field of "painting" and challenge convention. On the one hand, his paintings are based on a conceptual and intellectual approach, relying on in-depth thought and an attempt to clarify concepts and experiences such as "vision" or "color" and the study of topics in the field of painting. On the other hand, his paintings radiate a sensuous enthusiasm for the color, the mere movement of the brush and the creation of the image on the canvas. It seems that everything in his nearby vicinity, banal as it may be, transforms a relentless process of constant creation of art.

The works of Ben Ami seem absurdist and nihilistic in terms of their reductive simplicity, and yet, they also contain within them a provocative and poetic richness, out of which jumps a great love of painting, wisdom and creativity, along with theoretical depth. In Ben Ami’s incredibly in-depth work, one sees all the classical elements of painting – brush-work, color (in its material, optical and historical implications), platform, the appearance of the picturesque image, the history of painting – all of which makes him particularly worthy to be the first-ever winner of this award.

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