Tel Aviv Museum Renames Building After Richest Man in Israel

The Eyal & Marilyn Ofer Family Foundation will donate $5 million to renovate the Helena Rubinstein pavilion, which is part of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Eyal Ofer.
Rory Lindsay

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, which is part of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, will get a facelift thanks to a donation of $5 million from the Eyal & Marilyn Ofer Family Foundation, headed by Eyal Ofer, the richest person in Israel.

The pavilion, which is located in Habimah Square, in a building owned by the Tel Aviv Municipality, has not been fulfilling its mission in recent years, prompting the museum and City Hall to look for a donor who could revive the museum, and have now announced it will undergo serious renovations.

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“It’s a great honor for me and the Foundation to be part of this renewal. We’re excited to provide our support to this important heritage institution, located at the cultural center of Tel Aviv, continuing to develop it, while acknowledging the past support and contributions made by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation to the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa,” Ofer said.

The pavilion was built 60 years ago with the support of the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, after whom it was named. This foundation ceased to operate in 2011, and a search was launched to find a new funder who could ensure the continued operation of this art institution. At a board meeting on Wednesday it was decided that the pavilion would now be called the Eyal Ofer Building for the Arts, after its new donor.

As part of renovating the building, the Eyal & Marilyn Ofer Foundation asked the museum to ensure that the previous donation by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation would be commemorated.

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel, September 5, 2017.
David Bachar

In 2005, a donation by the Ofer family to the Tel Aviv Museum was withdrawn after protests over a request to name all the museum’s wings after the family.

The Ofer Foundation has supported several significant art institutions around the world; it assisted the expansion of the Tate Modern and helped with acquisitions and renovations at the National Maritime Museum in London, as well as provided members to serve on committees and boards of governors of various institutions such as the Tate Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Giacometti Foundation in France.

The Helena Rubinstein Pavilion was designed by architect Yaakov Rechter and spans 1,470 square meters (15,800 square feet). The renovations will be supervised by Amnon Rechter, the architect’s son, who is also an architect.

In recent years he’s been in charge of renovating several of his father’s projects such as the Mivtachim sanatorium in Zichron Yaakov, which became the Elma Hotel and Arts Complex, and the expansion of the District Court in Tel Aviv.

As of now, no other architect is expected to join the project, as is the case in the renovation of the older Tel Aviv Museum, in which veteran architect Dan Eytan and young architect Adar Oppenheim are currently involved, alongside designer Reut Iron.

In an attempt to attract a larger and younger crowd, the renovated pavilion will have a café, a bar and a shop. Estimates are that the planning and execution of the facelift will take three years to complete. The head of the museum’s board of governors is Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai and his deputy is Haim Samet. Other board members include Doron Sapir, Avraham Poraz, Avi Katko, Orit Vince, Eran Avrahami, Shirley Rimon, Michael Kenny, Yossi Alsheikh and David Rose.

“The donation allows us to realize our wish to renew the most beautiful diamond at the heart of Tel Aviv. This unique pavilion will provide opportunities to present excellent art in the city’s cultural center, making it a bustling location filled with people,” Samet said.

The museum’s director, Tania Coen-Uzielli, said that “the donation will enable us to re-create the original architecture of the pavilion by enlarging the exhibition halls and galleries, while improving their infrastructure. The building stands next to Habimah Theater and the Heichal Hatarbut auditorium, which have also undergone significant renovation in recent years. The pavilion will become an exciting third side of this thriving cultural square. Following the renovation, the pavilion will host important exhibitions by contemporary artists, both international and local.”

In addition, Coen-Uzielli said that “estimates are that the work will take three years, beginning in 2020, after all permits are obtained.”