Hidden away in the exclusive Viracura neighborhood, on a quiet side street corner, is a sprawling red building with simple lines and wide stairs leading up to glass doors. Entering the light-filled lobby, I find I am the only visitor this winter morning. Friendly staff take my coat and invite me to take as many photographs – with or without flash – as I wish. That, in itself, is already a pleasant surprise.
As I start wandering around, I notice that, true to the intentions of the owner, there is little information about the artists, other than their names, where they come from and when the work was made. Harry Recanati feels it is up to each visitor to form his or her own individual opinion, wants to let every work make its own impact on the viewer. No pre-digested art historian’s morsels to be found here!
A discreet golden frame contains a photocopied article from a Marbella newspaper informing that Mr. Recanati was a banker who decided to sell his banking interests in England, Switzerland and France and dedicate his life to his passion – collecting art and building not-for-profit museums accessible free of charge to the public. The first one to open was in the elegant beach resort of Punta del Este in Uruguay in 1987, followed by this one in Santiago in 1992, another one in Caesarea, Israel, 1993; in Marbella, Spain, in 2000. A fifth museum, called “Ralli Museum 2” and dedicated to classical art from the 16th to the 18th centuries was opened to the public in Caesarea, Israel in 2007. Parts of the museum collections travel from museum to museum. Mr. Recanati’s avowed aim is to bring contemporary Latin American artists, a selection of works from the 15th to 18th centuries and the post-impressionist period to the attention of a greater interested public. To this end, he has developed the most likely most important private collection of Latin and South American artists in the world, encompassing the works of over 800 artists, which is shown in an exhibition area of more than 12.000 sqm. for all five museums.
Another characteristic of the Ralli Museums is their policy of not accepting donations or subsidies from third parties. A fundamental principle is that no commercial activity whatever should take place in the Ralli Museums, meaning there are no gift shops or restaurants.
To quote the only page of the museum on the internet: „We fully agree with the famous French classical painter, Nicolas Poussin, who said: ‚Pleasure is the purpose of art’. Undoubtedly, beauty and pleasure are badly needed to alleviate the extreme tensions that plague our lives nowadays.”
Thank you, Mr. Recanati, for your generosity, I accept your invitation to take pleasure in your museum with gratitude!