As a young man, Doron Sebbag’s home was, in his words “an exhibition of posters.” A born art lover, Sebbag would visit galleries and purchase reproductions of his favorite works. In those days, Sebbag was unknowingly on the path to becoming one of the most influential art collectors in Israel.
Who is Sebbag?
Sebbag is the CEO of human resources firm ORS, which has branches throughout Israel, as well as the owner of the Artist Hotel on Ben Yehuda Street, in Tel Aviv.
His meeting with the Israeli art world began by chance when he was approached to sponsor the printing of a catalog for the now-defunct Bograshov Gallery. “That meeting made my whole professional development occur,” he says over coffee in the dining room of the Artist Hotel. He is seated next to Dana Golan Miller, curator of the Doron Sebbag Art Collection, against the backdrop of Guy Zagursky’s light and sand installation Desert Windows.
Not long after that first catalog, Sebbag purchased his first piece. “It’s like talking about my first love,” he says. “There was a showing at the Bograshov Gallery. I saw a piece by Deganit Berest called ‘Swimmer’. Afterward, she gave a lecture about how she made it. I approached her and asked if it was for sale. She said ‘Yes’. That is how I bought my first piece,” says Sebbag. And while he has repeated the process hundreds of times since, there is still something in the attraction to each piece that is beyond his understanding.
“Buying as a collector is a long process. It starts with a feeling that you can’t part with something. That it is part of you, part of your body. Each piece I purchased captured a moment in time. I can remember exactly where I bought it and how. I don’t always know why it happens or where it comes from,” he says.
In the decades since buying that first piece, Sebbag completed a master’s degree in Art History and has collected over one thousand Israeli and foreign works of art, which comprise the Doron Sebbag Art Collection.
The collection strives to bring art into places where art does not necessarily exist, be it a hotel room or a high school. Providing meeting points for new viewers with the finest Israeli and foreign art broaden the reach of the industry and fulfills a need Sebbag experiences viscerally. “I believe that collectors have the ability to recognize the next big talents,” he says. He mentions that outside of his work as an artist, painter Edgar Degas was one of France’s greatest collectors. “He bought two of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings for next to nothing. He had the ability to recognize important artists.”
THOUGH SEBBAG has strong ties with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, for which he serves as a board member, he is keenly aware of the potential of a private collection to move quickly and without the heavy binds of a public art institution. The collection’s annual events include exhibitions, community outreach programs, as well as commissions for his hotel, which is managed by Atlas Hotels.
In the hotel, guests can find themselves in one of 10 art rooms. Each one was created by a different Israeli artist, such as Ran Slavin or Hila Amram, as a site-specific work. The rooms are completely distinct from one another. Guests also pass through and by installations by local artists in the hallways, dining room, lobby and staircases. Sebbag and Miller plan to expand the scope of this artistic intervention to include more rooms in the near future.
Currently, Miller and Sebbag’s attention is on a new exhibition at the Ramat Hasharon Contemporary Art Gallery. Curated by Ravit Harari, If We Come Closer, is an emotional and in-depth voyage into connective threads deep in the subconscious of the collection.
For Sebbag, opening the collection to a new curator provides new insight into the mystical draw to the works. Over the years, the collection has hosted several curators, each one bringing their own interpretation of the bond between the pieces. “Tal Yachas curated ‘Accelerating Toward Apocalypse’. It was very cerebral, very material based. Ravit has touched on something completely different,” says Sebbag.
“Bringing an outside curator into the collection gives us the opportunity to go back to the creations beyond the day-to-day business of insurance, storage and cataloging,” explains Miller.
“It touches on the point between the object and its spirit,” adds Sebbag.
Though the exhibition includes works produced over a large span of time, chronology is not an organizing principle in their arrangement. Harari looked beyond timelines and geography and found connections between the works that harked back to their emotional and thematic origins. As such, the exhibition gives sheds new light on each and every work.
If We Come Closer will be open through February 15 at Ramat Hasharon Contemporary Art Gallery – Sderot Weizman 20, Ramat Hasharon. To read more about the Doron Sebbag Art Collection, visit: www.orscollection.com