Generally, art collectors are inspired and affected by social, political and financial factors. Historically, collecting was solely the pursuit of the privileged upper class with access to the major sources of art and ability to afford it.
A large part of the collection consists of paintings by Eastern and Western European artists and a substantial collection of works by Russian modernists, which were created with limited means and without substantial connections to the western artistic circles of the 1950s and1960s. The moderate means at their disposal and difficulties in tracing works of interest did not prevent the family members from accumulating a modest, yet excellent collection. From its inception, it was, and always has been, the founder’s policy to share their works of art with the widest public possible, inspired by the mere passion for art and the deep curiosity it evokes.
By the early 1950s, the collection consisted of approximately 60 works by various European and Russian artists. At this early stage it was composed mainly of graphic art, lithographs and aquarelles, with minor oil paintings by a handful of Russian artists such as Eliezer (El) M. Lissitzky “Proun“, 1924, David D. Burliuk “Nue féminin”, 1913, Vera E. Pestel “Composition futuriste”, 1916 and David P. Sterenberg “Nature morte”, 1920, quite unknown to the broad public at the time.
In the early 1960s the collection was enriched with additional works acquired from families of Russian immigrants that came to Israel during the so called “Let My People Go” immigration wave and the “Gomulka Immigration”. The family was able to enlarge its holdings with additional modernist Russian artists, thanks to the courage of individuals who carried these works outside the Soviet Union. The first important work purchased was an aquarelle piece by Marc Z. Chagall “Le rabbin de Vitebsk”, circa 1925. Further acquisitions followed from similar sources that brought these works from Eastern Europe, being the only assets they could carry when they left the Soviet Union.
During regular business trips by members of the family to London, Paris and East Germany in the beginning of the 1960s, introductions were made to individual works by important artists. In time, several of these works were incorporated into the collection. In the mid 1960s the family came into possession of several major oil paintings by Henri J. F. Rousseau “Tigre dans une fôret tropicale”, 1908, Natalia S. Goncharova “Bouquet de fleurs”, circa 1930, Alexandra A. Exter “Costumes de femme”, 1921 and Joan F. Miró “Personnage”, 1930.
At late 1960’s with the expansion of the family’s business, its members traveled to remote places and provinces in the Soviet Union, where they could trace works by yet unknown artists such as Nikolai Pirosmani-Shvili “Paysan avec taureau”, circa 1916, Sergei Y. Senkin “Composition abstraite”, 1921, and Alexander A. Vesnin “Composition suprématiste”, circa 1918 among others that became known in the western art scene only in the late 1980s.
The history of the collection that was accumulated over seven decades and was acquired piece by piece due to financial restrictions is very compelling.
One can find traces of the political environment that eventually led each work to its final destination. It was not an easy task to collect works of art in the mid 20th century when the political and social setting was uncertain and life was not as bright as one could imagine. For those given the task of finding suitable works, the investment in tracing the paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures became their mission. There was a need to adopt a learning process in order to understand the essentials of art in general and of the specific works purchased in particular.
Most of the works were acquired for small amounts of money; several were exchanged for legal assistance and advice provided by the family to the owners. During those troubled times, many, if not all persons needed legal assistance in order to obtain the required documentation for immigration visas they desperately needed.
Unfortunately due to the political state of affairs then, Jews who immigrated to Israel were not permitted to travel with many personal belongings and each and every object was carefully chosen for its maximum value. In many cases individuals who applied for legal advice or assistance, could not pay with hard currency; their only assets were personal items, which sometimes included Judaica, objects of art and various mediums of oil paintings.
Today the family is proud to be able to fulfill the founders’ will and eager to pass on this duty to its future generations.