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Tuesday, 20 November 2012 14:10

Israel Protects Artworks While Rockets Fly

While rocket fire is a normal occurrence in southern Israel, the recent attacks on Tel Aviv, the country’s northern capital city, has art museums in the area taking extra precautions. The walls of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art have been stripped and nearly 200 works, including approximately 100 works by relatives of the Renaissance master Pieter Brueghel the Elder, were moved to a rocket-proof safe late last week.

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued to escalate, other museums are following suit. The curator of the Ashdod Art Museum in southern Israel has taken down 15 works by the leading Contemporary Israeli artist, Tsibi Geva, and placed them in a vault deep underground. The structure is designed to withstand both rocket fire and biological weapons. It was the first time the Ashdod Museum has taken down any art amid attacks since opening in 2003.

While air strikes are creeping up from the southern Israel’s traditional rocket range to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, some institutions are holding out on stashing their works. The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, which specializes in Near Eastern antiquities and other art, has left its treasures in place. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which houses some of the country’s most prized antiquities and cultural artifacts has also continued to operate as usual.

The last time the Tel Aviv Museum of Art took down works during a conflict was in 1991 when Iraqi scud missiles pounded the city during the Gulf War.

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Starting in the 1950s, Rudolph and Hannelore Schulhof began building a 20th century art collection that has become the source of much speculation after the widowed Hannelore died this past February. Boasting nearly 350 works in total, Christie’s will auction 63 pieces from the collection including works by Joan Miro, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Indiana as part of its Impressionist and Modern Art Works sale and its Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in November. The sale is expected to bring in about $25 million. Christie’s will open the doors to the Schulhof’s Long Island mansion on Saturday, September 21 and Sunday, September 22 from 10AM to 5PM. Visitors will get a glimpse of an extraordinary, museum-quality collection. In fact, 100 of the works had previously been promised to three museums including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice as well as the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

The Sculhofs met in Vienna right before the start of World War II and married in Brussels in 1940. After traveling to the United States with extended family, Rudolph launched what would become a fine art reproduction company. When the couple first started collecting they tended to go after established names but were cajoled by the art dealer, Justin Thannhauser, to consider the art of their own time. As the Schulhof’s company had an office in Milan, they would frequent the city’s galleries as well as the Venice Biennale on their visits to Italy. It was on one of these trips that the Schulofs met the prominent American art collector, Peggy Guggenheim. A longtime friendship ensued, resulting in rapports with the artists themselves and the couple’s generous posthumous gift of 83 works to Guggenheim’s Venice institution. Another 200 artworks will remain in the Schulhof’s home and the family will decide on distribution in the future.

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