Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer has made a splash in the London art scene, announcing a huge donation to the UK's most visited gallery.
Through the Eyal Ofer Family Foundation, Ofer – who with his younger brother Idan controls the Herzliya-based Ofer Brothers Group – donated £10 million (€11.8 million) towards the extension of the Tate Modern.
Thanks to Ofer’s contribution, the contemporary art gallery has now raised 85% of the £215 million it needs for the extension project, which will increase the museum’s capacity by 60% and is expected to open by 2016.
"Tate Modern is one of the world's great public art institutions. So it is my privilege to be supporting this development project," Ofer said in a statement on 2 July.
In recognition of Ofer's donation, the Tate Modern, which last year attracted a record 5.3 million visitors, will name its third-level east galleries – which often house the Tate’s most important temporary exhibitions – the Eyal Ofer Galleries.
The Ofer family is well known in London for its philanthropic contributions. Eyal’s late father Sammy, who enlisted in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and went on to become Israel’s wealthiest man, was an important donor to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and contributed to the restoration of the Cutty Sark, a 19th-century British vessel.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Ofer financed a number of projects including the Gloriana barge that was donated to Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee last year.
Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate's director, said he was delighted about the Ofer family’s donation. “It is exciting to see such outstanding philanthropy continuing from one generation to the next. The generosity of Eyal Ofer and his family will help to make Tate Modern a truly 21st-century museum," he said.
Meanwhile, Israel Corp, a Tel Aviv-listed conglomerate that is majority-controlled by the Ofer Brothers Group, last week announced it was planning on splitting into two firms – one focusing on energy, shipping and automotive, and one focusing on oil and chemicals, its most lucrative operations – in a bid to reduce debt and increase its core activities’ market value.