Harry and Martine Recanati, founders of the Ralli Museums

Harry Recanati

He was born in Thessaloniki (Greece) in 1919, into a Jewish family with Italian and Spanish ancestry.

After finishing his studies, in 1937 he started working at the Israel Discount Bank, a modest bank founded by his father in the city of Tel Aviv. Harry Recanati took over the running of the bank upon his father’s death, turning it into the country’s second largest bank. New branches were opened and further private banks were acquired, extending over 22 countries. In 1962 the Israel Discount Bank acquired Ralli Brothers Ltd. of London, providing the name that would be later given to the museums.

Banquero Harry Recanati

A banker with a passion for the arts

Passionate about music, history and art, Harry Recanati became immersed in the world of collecting. At the beginning he started acquiring artworks by European artists from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, before his interest later turned to contemporary art.

This new facet of his private collection began with the work of European artists, as well as those from other continents who he knew thanks to his frequent work trips and tireless enthusiasm for art.

His frequent visits to Latin America led him to discover the local art, leaving him deeply impressed by its quality, temperance and colour. His newly discovered passion for the art of this continent means that works by Latin American artists were to be worthy of a special place in his private collection.

The culmination of a dream

In the 1980s he decided to bring his activities in the banking sector to a close, dedicating himself entirely to a large-scale cultural project. Harry Recanati had a dream, to offer his art collection for free to everyone who wished to see it, creating five museums in different countries around the world. The first was founded in Punta del Este (Uruguay) in 1988, the second in Santiago de Chile in 1992, the third in Caesarea (Israel) in 1993, the fourth in Marbella (Spain) in 2000, and a fifth museum, also in Caesarea, in 2007.

The first four Ralli Museums that he founded mainly exhibited work from his contemporary art collection. The collection of works with biblical themes by European artists (16th–18th centuries), with which Harry Recanati began his journey in the art world, is exhibited in the second museum he founded in the city of Caesarea, as well as in some rooms of the Ralli Museum in Santiago de Chile.

Harry Recanati familia

Martine Recanati, his partner throughout life and the project

From 1977, Harry was accompanied by his wife Martine Recanati on his journey of collecting art and making trips to different countries and continents. She also dedicated herself to the Ralli Museums project.

Martine, whose maiden name was Weil, graduated in medicine. She was working at two major hospitals in Paris when she first met Harry.

She played an active and involved role in the museum project and, as we can see from what they both said, they felt they shared a joint mission. In particular, Martine was in charge of the documentation, inventory, registration and safeguarding of the works, as well as contacting gallery owners and artists. Along with her husband, Harry Recanati, they both worked hard on what would be “the dream of their lives”, as Harry called it in an interview that can still be read today in the Museum’s archives.

The Harry Recanati Foundation, continuing his legacy

In 2000 the non-profit Harry Recanati Foundation was founded to continue with the work that they had already started, with the main purpose being to promote and disseminate Latin American and European contemporary art with his collection, making it available to everyone for free.

Harry and Martine Recanati, patrons and founders of the Ralli Museums, devoted much of their lives to promoting and supporting art and artists, both new and well-established.

Martine Recanati passed away in 2005, as did Harry Recanati just six years later, at the age of 92.

Current Exhibitions

American Abstraction · Carlos Mérida
Destination Argentina. Borges and Chale, female artists in the avant-garde
Contemporary art in Oaxaca. Vanguard, myth and tradition

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