The LACMA-Israel Museum connection
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Geographically isolated from the Western art world, the Israel Museum has thrived, in part, by developing support groups and cultivating relationships with museums worldwide. In the case of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, there’s a special twist. The two museums opened within a few weeks of each other in spring 1965.
“They were both campus museums that wanted to be encyclopedic,” says James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. The Jerusalem museum reflected the aspirations of a new country and grew into its largest cultural institution. LACMA embodied the ambitions of a young American city and is now the biggest art museum in the Western United States.
There are as many differences as similarities between the two institutions, but one fundamental thing they share is L.A.-based donors. Among them is the late Max Palevsky, a computer industry pioneer who donated a major Arts and Crafts collection to LACMA and founded the Israel Museum’s design department. Philanthropist and collector Eli Broad, who bankrolled the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, is also a longtime supporter of the Israel Museum.
Real estate developer Paul Amir and his wife, Herta, veteran members of LACMA’s Collectors’ Committee, have a strong commitment to Israel. They were major donors to a restoration of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem and their names will be on the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in recognition of their lead gift.
LACMA trustee Andrew Hauptman, who chairs Andell Holdings, a private investment firm, with his wife, Ellen, became involved with the Israel Museum through Ellen’s family. Her grandfather, Samuel Bronfman, founder of Seagram Company Ltd., launched the archeology wing of the Israel Museum.
“What’s interesting about the two institutions,” Hauptman says, “is that they do something special for their communities. Both have the capacity to be hubs of cultural activity, not just places of learning but places of gathering.”
Real estate developer Nahum Lainer and his wife, Alice, also believe in helping museums in their communities, the one where they live and the one that they love to visit.
In philanthropic circles, it isn’t unusual for donors to ally themselves with more than one institution, at home and elsewhere. But the Israel Museum is particularly dependent on the generosity of nonresidents. “It’s a great thing,” Snyder says, “to have friends from all over the world who can support you without having to make a decision that they are not going to support a museum in their home city.”
To read my Arts & Books article about the Israel Museum’s recent expansion, click here.
- -Suzanne Muchnic