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Sculpture of Ariel Sharon in coma to go on show in Israel

By Mark Tutton for CNN
  • Life-size sculpture shows former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in a coma
  • Sharon has been in a coma since having a stroke in January 2006
  • Artwork is intended to give Israelis a chance to mourn Sharon, says artist
  • Politician Yoel Hasson: "I think it's a cheap way for the artist to get attention ... "
  • Ariel Sharon
  • Sculpture
  • Israel

(CNN) -- A controversial sculpture of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in a coma is to be exhibited in Tel Aviv.

The life-size sculpture is part of an installation by Israeli artist Noam Braslavsky that depicts Sharon in a hospital bed, with his eyes open, and breathing.

Sharon has been in a coma since he suffered a massive stroke in January 2006.

Braslavsky told CNN: "It's a semi-mausoleum of Ariel Sharon, which allows people in Israel to mourn. Israelis didn't have opportunity to mourn and it's come to be a kind of taboo that nobody touches."

Sharon was a divisive figure in Israeli politics. A former army officer, as prime minister he supported the expansion of the Jewish settlements, but in 2005 orchestrated a military and civilian withdrawal of settlers from Gaza.

"What I do with the installation is a kind of very morbid process of giving people a way to confront their feelings," said Braslavsky. "Feelings are not only adoring, which is part of Israeli society, but also despising.

"The most important thing as an artist is the ability to give to the viewer the possibility to be in a personal moment with this figure that had so much impact in the life of every Israeli -- and everybody who lives in this area."

Braslavsky said the artwork has caused controversy in Israel, but added that his intention was to get people talking about Sharon.

Among those who disapprove of the installation is member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Yoel Hasson. In a statement issued in Hebrew he described the work as "sickening voyeurism."

"I think it's a cheap way for the artist to get attention for his exhibition," Hasson, who is a member of Kadima, the political party Sharon founded in 2005, told CNN Tuesday.

He said: "There's nothing positive in it, nothing I see as art. He [the artist] chose only to show the time of weakness of Sharon. I cannot understand that and I cannot appreciate it.

"I prefer to remember to remember Sharon as I remember him and I think most Israelis prefer that."

Braslavsky told CNN, "Some people have said it's disgusting, humiliating for a human, that it's not art, that I am doing it only to provoke.

"I said yes, it is provocation, but it's provoking a conversation."

The exhibition opens on October 21 at the Kishon Gallery in Tel Aviv.