The Art Museum Security Guard Who Became …an Exhibit

By Shlomo  Maital         

           Museum Guide              Valery Bikovsky

   This is the story of Valery Bikovsky, a security guard at a Tel Aviv art museum, whose drawings now appear in a nearby art museum. 

  Bikovsky was born in Odessa. In 1941 his father was sent away to build barracks for the Red Army, and never returned. His mother took the family to Tashkent, where Bikovsky studied construction, like his father had. In 1991, Vikovsky’s wife’s brother encouraged them to come to live in Israel. Vikovsky was 49.  Vikovsky found work as a security guard at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, later working evenings and weekends.  He has worked there for 21 years, lately as an usher.  At the Helena Rubinstein pavilion, he has a small office.

    In 2002, he began drawing, mostly by accident.  He draws people, some of whom he sees from his windowed office.  He is highly prolific, and gives away his sketches to the Museum workers, including its director, Prof. Mordecai Omer (along with poems – he is also a poet).

   A photographer named Uri Gershuni, whom Bikovsky liked to sketch, has now curated a Bikovsky exhibition, at the Haifa Museum of Art. The exhibit is called Yekaterina The Great (named after his sister Yekaterina, who recently passed away) and comprises Bikovsky’s black and white sketches, drawn on old museum art paper, depicting figures from the art world that Bikovsky encountered at the Museum over the years.  There is also a color collage he did, along with some of his poems. 

    The exhibit advertises Bikovsky as a security guard.    Well, it’s a great story…but Bikovsky is much more than that. “It’s PR,” he says.   He consults to artists who bring him paintings for his opinion.  He fixes the air conditioning or electricity when necessary, and interacts with visitors. “I see who comes in the door, the right way to talk to him, how to explain things.  It’s politics.”

    What can we learn from Valery Bikovsky?  Like many of those in his generation, he could not freely choose his vocation, but rather studied whatever enabled him to make a living.  He was not demeaned by becoming a security guard.  And he chose to work in a place, even menially, whose surroundings he loved.  Now, he has become an exhibited artist.  But he retains his position as guard/usher/handyman, which he loves.  I guess the life lesson here is to work in a place you love to be in, even if you’re not doing precisely the very thing you love to do.  Eventually, things will work out.

   Special thanks to Ellie Armon Azoulay for her fine story, in Haaretz daily newspaper.