Simcha Moyal didn’t study to be a curator, but one look at the exhibits she presents at local Jewish community centers, Hillels and museums, and you’d swear she got straight A’s.
Moyal is an Israeli artist representative who brings emerging and innovative artists’ exhibits to the United States and Canada. Though her work occasionally takes her out of California, Moyal spends most of her time ensuring that the walls of galleries, lobbies and even gyms at local venues are filled with Israeli art.
“You can bring Israeli stand-up comics, speakers or singers, but they don’t address our culture the way visual art can,” said Moyal, a Palo Alto resident and native of Tel Aviv. “There’s a story behind it, and I want to bring that story out of Israel.”
Being an Israeli artist representative is a full-time job for Moyal, who, after 20 years as an artist and sculptor, was forced to stop after having surgery for a spinal injury.
Now, a typical day might begin with her responding to e-mails from her home office, then driving to local JCCs, museums, or college or high school campuses to put up an exhibit, break one down or chat with curators.
Moyal also hunts for new venues and writes artists’ summaries for the exhibits she displays. If an artist cannot attend the opening of an exhibit, Moyal speaks on their behalf. She’ll even facilitate a meeting with the artist if someone is traveling in Israel.
Most of the time Moyal puts in is unpaid, though she does charge the venue and the artist a nominal fee. The goal, she said, is to take no money from artists and have their compensation stem from the venue.
If any artwork sells, Moyal takes a small percentage — though she noted recent sales have been down due to the economy.
Even if they don’t buy, “people are happy to see something from Israel,” Moyal said. “They connect to the artwork, even when every person sees something different. I get this warm feeling when I am welcomed to a place with my Israeli artwork.”
Every three months or so, Moyal, the mother of three, travels to Israel to meet potential exhibitors and reconnect with artists she has worked with in the past. What is almost always supposed to be a vacation with her family (two of Moyal’s daughters live in Israel) turns into a work-driven trip with little to no relaxation.
But her hard work in Israel pays off, especially when she can bring upward of seven exhibits to a venue for selection.
Before proposing an artist’s exhibit to a client, Moyal factors in which ones will best complement a venue’s floor plan or gallery space, and accurately coincide with lesson plans when appropriate.
For example, she brought images by Israeli photographer Ofir Ben Tov to enhance a unit on biblical stories at Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto. Ben Tov’s photos also were displayed at the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos and the Peninsula JCC in Foster City.
This past October, Moyal installed “Works on Iron” by Helen Shaul and Asnat Greenberg (a duo based in Jerusalem), just in time for the grand opening of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto.
“Every time I get to display the art, I’m happy because I know about the subject,” Moyal said. “This is the most important part for me and another step in making the gap between Israel and the U.S. smaller.”
A former captain in the Israel Defense Forces, Moyal was a nurse for many years before becoming a full-time artist. About 10 years ago, the nurse-turned-artist moved from Israel to the East Coast, where her work appeared in New York galleries. She moved to the Bay Area three years later.
Following her spinal surgery, Moyal tried to continue sculpting, but it was too painful. During a trip to Israel, she discovered a way to stay connected with the art world without having to create art: She would bring the country’s artists to a new audience.
“Works on Iron” was the first exhibit she brought to the U.S.; it was displayed at Berkeley’s Judah L. Magnes Museum as part of “@60.art.Israel.world,” which celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel in February 2008.
Since then, “more and more people from Tel Aviv have sent me artists to represent,” Moyal said. “Israel has achieved so much in 60 years, and I want people to look at the art, enjoy it and want to go to Israel.”