Ron Huldai was born to a dirt-poor family in Kibbutz Hulda, a very small farmer's community. "The only thing we were rich with was culture," he says.
His father, born in Lodz, filled the living room with reproductions of paintings by Van Gogh, Modigliani and Miro. He didn't have enough money to buy picture frames so he made them himself.
Addressing the American Friends of Tel Aviv Museum of Art on April 13 at the Pierre Hotel, Huldai said, "If my father were here he'd point to all the paintings being auctioned here and say, 'Ron, look at those wonderful frames!'"
Huldai is chair of the Tel Aviv Museum. In his spare time he runs the city. He's been the mayor since 1998. "For someone who loves art, it's the best job in the world to be mayor of Israel's center of culture, a city thriving with dance, theater, film, literature."
The museum was created 80 years ago when the city's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, opened his living room and art collection to the public. The museum relocated to its own building. In 1948 David Ben-Gurion chose to declare the independence of the State of Israel in the museum.
"To us the Tel Aviv Museum is what the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is to Americans - a place that symbolizes the birth of a nation," Huldai said.
The museum continues to expand. In October Huldai, as the museum's chairman, will inaugurate the Herta and Paul Amir Building at a cost of $50 million. Huldai presented the couple with the Patrons of the Art Award at the dinner. Donald Sultan received the Artist of the Year Award.
To coincide with the opening of the new Tel Aviv Museum, Mayor Huldai will launch a campaign to brand Tel Aviv as a global city.
"Our strategic plan," he said, "is to position Tel Aviv as an international financial and cultural center. We will start with a Year of Art, featuring dozens of exhibitions, conferences, community projects, educational initiatives and festivities. We are sure that the Year of Art, and the Tel Aviv Museum it celebrates, will attract art lovers from around the globe."
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