A passionate debate erupted Monday at the annual meeting of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Board of Trustees centering on a proposal to rename the museum in honor of businessman Sami Ofer in exchange for a USD 20 million donation for the construction of a new wing dedicated to Israeli art.
Among the sharpest opponents was Raya Jaglom, an art collector and board member since the museum opened in 1948. “If the name is changed,”
The collection, one of the museum’s earliest, was donated by Marie and Simon Jaglom and includes masterpieces by some of France’s greatest artists, such as Paul Cezanne, Alfred Sisley, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Marc Chagall.
“We will not sell the city’s museum, a public asset, to one man”, she added. “Each of the museum’s pavilions is named after donors. If Ofer so desires, he should name the Israeli arts wing in his name, since he is funding its construction.”
Change will drive away donors
Jaglom claims the name change, should it be implemented, may deter potential donors and hurt fundraising efforts. “I have no doubt that donors will reconsider whether to donate to a museum which already has a sponsor. (People will say) 'Let him give money, why should others solicit donations for him?'” she said.
During the meeting, Jaglom read a letter written by an art collector from New York hoping to bequeath a USD 14-to-18 million collection to the museum, in addition to a painting to go to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The donor has asked Jaglom to care take the collection, who asked board colleagues, "What should I reply to her? I'm not sure she will donate the collection to a museum named after Ofer.”
Another member of the museum’s international board of trustees, Pauline Recanati, threatened to resign if museum is renamed. The Recanati family funded the construction of the museum’s conference and concert hall, and Pauline Recanati is the founder of the museum’s board of trustees in London.