The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art Collection began with a collection of paintings that were mostly donated by Herzliya resident Eugene da Villa in the early 1960s, which was exhibited in the museum’s first location – an apartment on 15 Bar Ilan Street in the city. In 1975 the new museum building was inaugurated, which was combined with the Beit Yad Labanim military memorial building. In those years, the museum presented, alongside eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art works from the Da Villa collection, archaeological finds from the Apollonia site on the Herzliya shoreline. In 2000 the museum was separated from Beit Yad Labanim, and its collection became more focused on art. Currently, the museum’s collection – comprised of several sub-collections – includes over one thousand works.
In the 1980s, Yoav Dagon, then the museum’s director, placed special emphasis on stone and clay sculpture. The museum’s collection includes over two hundred sculptures collected over the years. In 2016 a sculpture by Yaakov Dorchin, 2011 Israel Prize in Plastic Arts Laureate – Blocked Well with Iron Casing and Turret (1993-1995) – was installed at the entrance to the museum, generously gifted by Talma and Eliezer Levin, who are members of the Friends of the Herzliya Museum Association.
Under the direction of Dalia Levin, from 1993 to 2013, the museum focused on Israeli and international contemporary art, particularly photography and video art. At the same time, the museum’s collection was expanded by several collections donated to it: the collections of Jacob Alkow, Osias Hofstatter, and Yona Fischer. In addition, many artists exhibited by the museum gifted their works to it over the years.
Dr. Aya Lurie, who has served as the museum’s director since 2014, has further developed the collection as a key part of the museum’s activity. In addition to its artistic value, she regards the display and exploration of the collection as an important means of forging ties between art and the community. “The museum,” she maintains, “must keep its finger to the pulse, always looking forward while allowing the past to resonate in the present.”
The Jacob Alkow Collection includes 43 works by Jewish artists, including Max Liebermann, Raphael Soyer, and Max Weber, as well as key works by important American artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, such as Marsden Hartley, George Luks, Milton Avery, and William Trost Richards. It is an eclectic collection of art works in a variety of styles and mediums, as well as decorative art objects from East Asia. The Osias Hofstatter Collection includes the estate of this painter, known in Israel as an esteemed “Holocaust artist.” These works reveal him to be a gifted humanist who touches on the finest threads of human suffering, examining it only to transcending it by expressing universal emotions and notions. The Michael Adler Collection includes mainly works from the 1970s, completing a significant artistic chapter in the museum’s collection. It is comprised of works by established Israeli artists, such as Joseph Zaritsky, Avigdor Stematsky, Arie Aroch, and Michael Gross, as well as conceptual and post-minimalist Israeli artists, such as Benni Efrat, Pinchas Cohen-Gan, Nahum Tevet, Joshua Neustein, Avital Geva, and Zigi Ben-Haim. The Yona Fischer Collection, donated to the museum by Fischer himself, reflects the importance of his curatorial work over six decades, which to a great extent has defined the field in Israel. It is an expression of Fischer’s refined personal taste and curiosity. Works from the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art Collection are constantly on view in its exhibitions, as well as on loan to museums in Israel and internationally.
Jacob Alkow lived an intriguing life full of upheavals, and art played a prominent role in it. The international eclectic collection is comprised of 43 works of plastic art in a variety of styles and techniques, most from the 20th century, with a minority of works from the 19th century and even earlier. A strong affinity for Judaism is evident from the collection – most of the artists, Israelis and non-Israelis, are Jews, and also the themes of many of the works deal with Jewish life. One might conclude that the life story of Alkow, a refugee from Russia at the beginning of the century who emigrated with his family to America, influenced the nature of the collection.
Another notable feature in the collection is the clear representation of American artists. Alkow had great respect for his adoptive nation and acquired a few key works by important American artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many American artists have studied in Europe and have been influenced by contemporary currents and schools, yet many works – albeit stylistically diverse – are an expression of a local spirit that has shown interest in everyday and American life: landscape paintings, rural and urban genre paintings, and urban realism.
The collection also includes some works by canonical European artists, whose works span periods and countries.
Bernard Reder (1897–1963) was a Jewish artist who was mainly engaged in sculpture, engraving, and etching. He was born in Czernowitz (in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today in Ukraine), at the time a center of Jewish and Hasidic culture. Reder went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where he had in 1935 his first solo exhibition. Two years later, in 1937, he moved to Paris and exhibited with the artist Aristide Maillol. Later that year, Reder and his wife were forced to flee Paris in fear of the Nazis. They fled to Spain, two years later moved to Havana, Cuba and in 1943 they arrived and settled in New York City. In the span of a few years his works were already exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Philadelphia Museum.
In 1954, Reder went to Italy to sculpt in Rome and Florence and upon his return to New York he was given a solo one-man retrospective exhibition show at the Whitney Museum. For the first time in its history the museum devoted three of its floors to a single artist.
In 1967, Chaim Gamzu, director of the Tel Aviv Museum, curated an exhibition of Reder’s sculptures at the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion, as part of a series of modern sculpture exhibitions, which featured sculptures also by French artist Auguste Rodin and British artist Henry Moore. In 1987, a retrospective exhibition was held at the Herzliya Museum to mark the 90th anniversary of Bernard Reder’s birth.
Reder died in 1963 in New York. After he passed away, his wife immigrated to Israel, and his estate was entrusted to the curator and collector Deborah Schocken, who donated it to the Herzliya Museum as part of her activities as chair of the association for the museum. His works are currently in the collections of prominent museums in Israel and around the world.
Reder’s works were greatly influenced by the Bible, Greek mythology, and Hasidic daily life in Czernowitz, and even tales he heard from his mother as a child found their way to them. He was a highly skillful artist, with a boundless imagination whose fantastic products later became his distinctive artistic language. At the same time, there is in his works an extraordinary balance of contrasts – emotions and rationality, meticulousness, and spontaneity.
Reder was noted for his sculptures, but he excelled also in drawing and printmaking. He engaged extensively in various graphic techniques – pen, pencil, and brush drawings, as well as charcoal, and prints in woodcuts, engraving and etching. In his prints he achieved rare colorful qualities and because he vehemently opposed duplication – the main character of the medium – he created a monotype, only one copy of each print.
Bernard Reder’s graphic language is fast, sharp, and humorous, and yet, as mentioned, rationalistic and meticulous. It is evident that his work was created out of an in-depth observation and understanding of the hidden parts of the human psyche. The visual translation of this understanding is expressed in figures from the Greek mythology as Amazons and Minotaurs presented in an allegorical way; In imaginary animals, which are sometimes a hybrid of animal organs and human organs; In deformed musical instruments that accompany the fantastic creatures; In voluptuous women and various figures that Reder dressed in ostentatious costumes.