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The Israel Museum awards the first Shpilman International Prize

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, has selected artist Michal Heiman to receive the first Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography. Created in partnership with the Israel Museum, the new biannual prize aims to catalyze and support international research projects exploring theoretical and practical issues in photography. Ms. Heiman was selected from a pool of thirty-five finalist candidates from nine countries by a jury of leaders in the field—including Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Marta Gili, Director of the Jeu de Paume, Paris. Ms. Heiman will receive $40,000 to support her newly conceived project investigating the contribution of art to psychoanalysis, and vice versa.

Michal Heiman (b. 1954) is one of the most prolific artists in Israel today, presenting exhibitions of photography, painting, installation, and video, drawing on her extensive research in the fields of psychology and philosophy. The Shpilman Prize will support new research exploring the interaction between art and psychoanalysis, concentrating on the role of photography and visual imagery as frequently used diagnostic tools. Ms. Heiman will follow steps of the creators of visual psychological tests and investigate aspects of photography—among them portraiture, stereoscope, and World War I documentary imagery—that influenced and were influenced by such tests and consequently her own work too. Ms. Heiman plans to build two test boxes, ‘The Unthinkable I’ – For the People of the 21st Century and ‘The Unthinkable II’ – The Archive of Simultaneous Movement, to be presented and “performed” in an exhibition that will conclude the project. The Israel Museum will also produce a publication documenting this work.

“Ms. Heiman’s project is at once innovative and cross disciplinary. It is grounded in photography, but also touches upon psychology, sociology, and perception, with a solid theoretical basis and background,”
Nissan N. Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator of the Israel Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography. “We are proud to recognize Ms. Heiman with this first Shpilman Prize, particularly because of the groundbreaking nature of her project.”

Shpilman Prize submissions were reviewed by a pre-selection committee from the srael Museum to ensure that applications complied with the prize regulations and to assess the validity of the projects proposed. Seventeen applications were brought to the consideration of a jury of international experts in the field of photography, including, in addition to Mr. Perez:

  • Dr. Shlomo Lee Abrahmov (Yakum, Israel) – Artist, Researcher, and Lecturer, Holon Institute of Technology andShenkar College of Engineering and Design, representing the Shpilman family;
  • Mr. Peter Galassi (New York) – Chief Curator of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art; New York;
  • Ms. Marta Gili (Paris) – Director, Jeu de Paume;
  • Prof. Hanan Laskin (Tel Aviv) – Founder, Photography Department, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and academic advisor to art schools and other cultural institutions in Israel.
“I have no doubt that the Shpilman Prize will be embraced as one of photography’smost distinguished honors, not least because it is designed to encourage newwork,” said Peter Galassi, Chief Curator of Photography of The Museum of Modern Art. “It has an ideal home in the Department of Photographyof the Israel Museum, which has grown and been enrichednotably since the Museum’s early years, under the direction of Senior CuratorNissan Perez, who so ably guided the jury process.”

A lecturer and curator for the Bezalel Academy of Art and Designin Jerusalem,and the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Arts and the Advanced StudiesPsychotherapy Program at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Michal

Heiman’s interdisciplinary practice includes installation, painting, photography, and video. Her work is often based on extensive research in the fields of psychology and philosophy and centers on the themes of psychoanalysis, clinical research, the history of art, politics, and the gender debate. Among her major works are the series Photo Rape (2003) and I was There (2005), as well as the video series Daughtertype (2006-2008) and Attacks on Linking (2003-2006). In 1997, Ms. Heiman represented Israel at Documenta X in Germany, where she first operated Michal Heiman Test (MHT) No. 1, arranged along the lines of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)—a personality test used by psychologists in which viewers react to images presented in a box. Ms. Heiman continued her testing series with Michal Heiman Test (MHT) No. 2 – My Mother-in-Law – Test for Women, presented in France, Israel, and Japan. She is also recognized for her lectures on the British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion (1897-1979) and on the French artists Claude Cahun, Christian Boltanski, and Sophie Calle.

Michal Heiman was nominated for the Shpilman Prize by Professor Hannah Naveh, Dean of The Faculty of Arts, Tel Aviv University.

The Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography

Recognizing photography as a leading contemporary cultural medium, the Shpilman Prize was initiated by the Shpilman family and the Shpilman Art and Culture Foundation together with the Israel Museum with the joint objectives of stimulating, encouraging, and cultivating international research projects in photography and of broadening the range of photographic investigations which integrate theoretical issues with practical ones. The $40,000 prize is awarded by an international jury once every two years, resulting in a publication by the Israel Museum, and if suitable, an exhibition. Nominations for the 2012 prize will be accepted beginning October 1, 2011.

Prospective candidates include artists and scholars in photography with a proven record of past achievement who intend to undertake a research project of consequence in the field of photography. Candidates for the prize must be nominated by experienced professionals in art and/or photography affiliated with non-commercial artistic, cultural, or academic institutions. The projects submitted are reviewed and judged by an independent jury of internationally recognized experts. Prize regulations are available online at

The Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography is supported by an endowment gift of $1 million from the Shpilman Art and Culture Foundation, with the goal of expanding the core activities of the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography. Mr. Shalom Shpilman, a philanthropist and businessman based in Tel Aviv, with a long-standing interest in the promotion of photographic scholarship and discovery has also recently founded the Shpilman Institute for Photography (SIP), dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of photographic knowledge.

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