A museum of his own

An American-Israeli collector sells off one of Israel’s largest collections of art, local photography, books, and El Al memorabilia.

Thirteen children’s books illustrated and published by Peretz Rushkevitz, Tel Aviv, 1939-1956, sold for $6,000.

American-Israeli lawyer Arnie Druck is well known in the local art world. Artists, photographers, curators and museum staff all know about his vast collections of Israeli works.

Though some pieces from his collections have been exhibited at Israeli museums in the past, he has remained relatively anonymous to the general public. Until recently.

Druck – who has been dubbed “a collector’s collector” – is his own museum. The 63-year-old has been collecting all sorts of things for four decades.

In 1973, he bought his first two artworks – a painting of Jerusalem and a work by Yaakov Agam.

“I started with paintings,” Druck told the Jerusalem Post in 2010, “but eventually I ran out of wall-space.”

So he turned to photography. “Photographs are flat. You don’t have to frame them, you can just put them into drawers,” he said.

Druck told the Israeli Calcalist business newspaper recently that it was an article about another collector’s death that planted the idea of auctioning off his collection.

“I saw the family giving everything away,” Druck told Calcalist. “I told myself I didn’t want to leave it to my children and wife because they couldn’t handle it. I want the auction to take place when I’m still alive and know the value and significance of all the items.”

That’s exactly what he did. The Kedem auction house recently sold off tens of thousands of items from Druck’s collections representing eras and genres in Jewish and Israeli culture.

“Every collection is the result of passion and every passion is the result of a certain craze which motivates and characterizes it. Each collection seeks to satisfy one hunger or another,” reads the Kedem auction house catalog.

Describing the contents of Druck’s cache, the catalog reads: “Rare first editions, children’s books – the most beautiful ever printed, rare books of poetry, important Israeli art, wines of the Golan Heights Winery that describe the story of the quality revolution of the Israeli wines, countless antique postcards  bookplates, business cards and Kibbutz Haggadot, Exquisite facsimiles of ancient illuminated manuscripts, and many more precious objects – which is only natural that a man whose surname is Druck (German: print) would collect – and the eyes take in the abundance and the hands flip through with joy.”

Paintings in his collection included works by Reuven Rubin, Tzvi Tadmor, Avraham Ofek and Israel Hershberg.

Druck also auctioned off a 1,300-item El Al memorabilia collection, artifacts linked to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, signed business cards of David Ben Gurion; manuscripts of former foreign minister Aba Eban; and items related to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty from the late 1970s.

The Kedem Auction House announced that 75 percent of Druck’s collection was sold. It said unsold items would go on sale at the next auction in January 2014.

According to a Worldcrunch report, Druck is now thinking about creating a fund for investment in the arts.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.