Yaacov Agam (1928 – Today) was born in Rishon Letzion, then a small town, to a religious family. His father was a rabbi who was interested in Kabbalah and Jewish spirituality. As a child he studied with different rabbis in a synagogue in his city, because at the time there was no religious education framework in the community. In 1936 he experienced, as a spectator, a terror attack that left it’s mark on him. In 1940, he began painting, influenced by the book “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone about the fictional re-telling of the life of Van Gogh. In 1945 he was arrested for eight months by the British Army, on suspicion of being a member of an underground movement.
In 1946 he studied at the New Bezalel in Jerusalem. Under the influence of Mordecai Ardon, he went to study in Zurich in 1949, where he became acquainted with the ideas of constructivist art and the Bauhaus movement. In 1951 he went to Paris and approached the Surrealist circle in the city. At first he made a living as a teacher at a seminar of the Jewish Agency. In 1953 he first created “polyphonic images” – kinetic works that change in relation to the viewer’s point of view. In 1967 he created his first sculptures and in 1986 began to use stainless steel for the first time. In 1996 he was awarded the UNESCO Prize for Education following his unique program of visual education in early childhood.
Agam’s work is characterized by abstract images based on Jewish-Kabbalistic iconography. In many of his works there are contradictory images that, according to the artist, unite into a single recognition of the process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Among his well-known works is Salon Agam (1971-1975), which was built for the Elysee Palace in Paris, The Fountain of Water and Fire (1986) in Dizengoff Square and the Dan Hotel (1986) in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
1946 New Bezalel, Jerusalem
1949 Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland
1949 History of Art and Music, Zurich University, Zurich, Switzerland, with Johannes Itten
1951 School of Abstract Art, Paris, France
1951 Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, Paris, France
1967 Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
1983 Hebrew Academy, San Francisco, California, USA
1983 Visual Education, Yavne
1985 Visual Education. Weizmann Institute, Rehovot
Awards And Prizes
1963 Prize for Artistic Research, Sao Paolo Biennale, San Paolo, Brazil
1972 Sandberg Prize for Israeli Art, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
1976 Honorary Citizen of Alabama, USA
1996 UNESCO Prize for Education, Jan Amos Comenius Medal for the “Agam Method” for visual education for young children
1965 “Double Metamorphosis III”
1969 “Complex Vision”, Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
1971 “18 Levels” Jerusalem
1975 “Fountains”, Paris, France, La Defense District,
1985 “Roots”, Menorah in Bernard Garden, Tel Aviv;
1986 “Fire and Water”, Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv.;
1989 “Visual Music Orchestration” Works mainly in Paris;
2002 “Wheels” – at the portal of Yad Sarah, Jerusalem.
2009 “Peaceful Communication With The World”, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
2010 Hanukkah Menorah, New York City, USA
2014 Vatican City, Rome, Italy, “Faith-Visual Pray”