The Dubi Shiff Art Collection is one of the leading private art collections in Israel. For the past twenty years, its focus has been figurative-realist art, mainly by Israeli artists. Encompassing the great diversity of this style of painting in contemporary art, the collection spans the gamut from works on traditional themes, such as landscape, portraiture, and still life, to various contemporary variations. Driven by the collector’s love of the genre, the collection (curated by Iris Barak since 2012) aims to showcase the wealth and significance of figurative expression in contemporary art, and increase the public exposure of artists working in this genre through a range of activities, including exhibitions, grants, and awards.
Dubi Shiff started collecting figurative art in the 1990s. At the time, there was a marked return to painting—including figurative painting—in international art circles. In Israel, however, it was not yet acceptable, and the style was shunned by art schools and exhibition venues alike.
Since then, however, the local scene has greatly changed. In 1998, the Jerusalem Studio School, founded by Israel Hershberg, became the first art school to offer students rigorous training in figurative painting traditions. In 2005, two of the school’s graduates—Aram Gershuni and David Nipo—founded HaTahanah Studio for Figurative Painting and Drawing in Tel Aviv. Since then, figurative realist painters have gained prominence, and are now featured in many exhibitions at museums and commercial galleries alike, on an equal footing with all other contemporary art styles.
A key contributing factor to the increased visibility and acceptance of the figurative realist style on the Israeli art scene has been the Haim Shiff Award for Figurative Realist Art, sponsored by Dubi Shiff and named after his late father, who was an art lover and collector. Granted annually in collaboration with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, this award includes a monetary grant and a solo exhibition at the museum, accompanied by a scholarly publication. In addition, the Dubi Shiff Collection has sought to support and promote the genre through numerous avenues—including a two-year research fellowship, exhibitions, and further grants and awards.
Special place in the collection is given to portraiture—from self-portraits to portraits of the artists’ families or lovers. As Dr. Aya Lurie notes, “At the heart of the portrait as an artistic trope lies a complex relationship between the appearance of the human figure and its plastic representation” (“On the Definition of the Portrait and its Boundaries in the Dubi Shiff Art Collection,” in Selected Artworks from the Shiff Collection, exhibition catalogue, 2017).