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Lily Safra Donates Richter Painting to Israel Museum

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Lily Safra stunned the art world when she announced her plans to donate her recent acquisition to the Israel MuseumPhilanthropist Lily Safra made headlines in the art world recently by announcing that she was planning to donate a Gerhard Richter painting she had purchased at auction at Sothebys to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  The painting, titled “Abstraktes Bild 849-3” dates from 1997.  It fetched $20.8 million, a record for the artist.  It is the third and last painting in a series and will mark the second abstract work by Richter in the Israel Museum.

The widow of banker Edmond Safra, Lily Safra has been an active figure on the philanthropy scene for over thirty years.  Ranked by Forbes as the 701st richest person in the world in 2009, Safra has donated to a variety of causes, including the American Red Cross and the Institute for Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries in Paris.  Additionally, she played a key role in the development of the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for Learning Disabilities at the University of Haifa and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University.

This is not the first time Safra has made waves at an art auction.  In February 2010, she purchased the bronze sculpture L’homme qui Marche I, by Alberto Giacometti, at Sothebys for $103.7 million, shattering the record for the highest price a sculpture has ever sold for at auction.

Richter is a German visual artist who has worked in a variety of styles and with a variety of materials over the course of his career, including canvas, glass and metal.  He may be best known for his abstract paintings, which often focus on layers of color, with surface colors peeling off to reveal others below.  The painting Safra purchased was layered, covered in pinks and blues, and almost 10 feet by 6 ½ feet large.

The Israel Museum was founded in 1965.  The fine arts wing was named after Edmond and Lily Safra, after a $12 million donation in 2009.  The Museum contains works by major European artists such as Gustave Courbet, Camille Pisarro, and Marc Chagall as well as important Israeli artists like Abel Pann and Reuven Rubin.  The Israel Museum recently completed a $100 million renovation, which doubled the gallery space.  The renovated museum opened in the summer of 2010.  The museum takes up almost 50,000 square meters and sees approximately 800,000 visitors per year.

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