TA museum searches for 624 works of art it may have lost
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art has misplaced 624 works from its permanent collection, the Tel Aviv municipal comptroller revealed in a recent report.
The museum employs outdated techniques in monitoring its collection, the report found, raising the likelihood of artwork going missing.
Museum administrators were unable yesterday to say which, if any, of the works have been lost, or whether they had simply been overlooked due to a registration error.
"We are currently working to identify the works in question," a museum official said. "As for the misplacement of pieces, every museum curator knows the location of artworks under his authority at any given moment."
The museum is required to conduct an inventory every eight months, but records show none has been made since 1992. Before that, the last count was performed in 1975. A comparison between the two inventories turned up a discrepancy of hundreds of works, among them 485 original pieces.
Comptroller Haia Horowitz wrote in the report, released in January, that the museum continues to use antiquated registration methods rather than the computerized systems common in many museums today. Horowitz found that 13 sculptures in the museum's collection are currently unidentified, their descriptive tags having been misplaced.
A statement from the museum said it is currently conducting a full count of its collection.
The museum's collection includes 34,000 works from world-class figures like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Gustav Klimt, as well as renowned Israeli artists such as Reuven Rubin and Leah Nikel. The collection's total value is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Full-time pay, four-day week
The comptroller also found that Mordechai Omer, the museum's director and chief curator, had until recently been receiving a full-time salary even though he worked only four days a week.
The report found he had been working without a contract since at least as early as 2003. Until his recent retirement, Omer taught once a week in the art history department of Tel Aviv University and was curator of the university's Genia Schreiber Art Gallery.
The comptroller also said that Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai's dual role as mayor and chairman of the board could constitute a conflict of interest. As chairman of the board, Huldai selects the members of the museum's public administration, which is responsible for overseeing the institution's director.
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is a municipal corporation of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, and therefore operates under its direct authority. Fifty percent of the museum's budget comes from public funds, most from the municipality and the rest from the Culture and Sports Ministry. Around 10 percent of its funding comes from private donations.