Upon entering the Ralli Museum of Modern Art in Caesarea, one immediately becomes immersed in a sumptuous and colorful world of European and Latin American art - with no monetary toll taken for the most rewarding cultural joyride. Even before entering the building, visitors are taken on a fast flight into the world of diverse cultures and no-boundaries imagination in paintings, sculptures and other art forms created by contemporary artists in far-off countries. The surrounding courtyards boast magnificent sculptures and shaded verandas with attractive pergolas, giving a small taste of what is inside: an unimaginable artistic feast. The aim of the museum's owners, Harry and Dr. Martine Recanati, is purely to share the pleasure of art with visitors, and for that reason there are no lengthy explanations about the art and artists to plod through, and no guides to talk you through the exhibits. Come, see, enjoy and bask in the pleasure of art and the incredible building housing the private collection. Whether paintings or sculptures, the decorative floor tiles and wood and ceramic steps, or carved balustrades in a style one usually only sees in Hollywood movies, there is something for everyone to take pleasure in. The canvases come in almost every size imaginable and a collection of sculptures of mostly stout ladies in a state of undress seem astoundingly attractive and lively to the extent that one is almost drawn toward entering into a conversation with them - especially one lady riding a bicycle down one of the open verandas. What is not on offer is a pricey museum bookshop or expensive eatery, part of the Ralli policy of no in-house commercial activity. Signs also let you know that it is perfectly okay to take photographs - unlike museums where selling images of the art hanging on its walls in postcard or book form is the norm, in an attempt to fill the institute's coffers. The Ralli museum makes no demands on visitors to play the great pretender and 'understand' what is on display - just simply, as stated above the entrance, the aim is to have one enter into and derive pleasure from the wonderful world of art, irrespective of whether the artist is famous or a relative unknown, or if the work is considered 'modern' or not. The collections on exhibit are mostly in the surrealist vein which, as a rather brief account in an information sheet available at the desk states, does not exclude exhibitions of works by artists of other origins and styles. The choice of the works has been determined solely by their quality, irrespective of the reputation of the artists or their market value, all of which makes up an extraordinary eclectic experience for the viewer. The exhibits also include a few fascinating works by Salvador Dali. A child walking past one of them with her parents suddenly jumped, pointed to the Dali work and excitedly told everybody standing nearby that she had seen a picture of it in her grandmother's book on Salvador Dali. The 10-year-old's parents were bursting with pride. A section of the museum is devoted to the history of Caesarea, and this writer would suggest taking overseas visitors to see the Ralli showcase before visiting the real McCoy down the road. The museum is situated in one of the country's most upscale neighborhoods with a residents' list reading like a Who's Who of Israel's rich and famous. Their neighbors of yore down the adjacent Roman road were also not short of a shekel or two, and showed an artistic flare, remnants of which can still be admired in modern times. Harry Recanati was born in Salonica, Greece in 1919 to Leon Recanati and Mathilde Saporta. The Recanati family originated in Italy and the Saportas are of Spanish origin. Leon founded the Palestine Discount Bank Ltd. in Tel Aviv in 1935, and when he died 10 years later Harry was appointed managing director. However a family disagreement saw him take leave of the banking business at a later stage. Renamed the Israel Discount Bank Ltd., the bank was Israel's second largest by the end of l952, with over 40 branches throughout the country.

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