Barakat is currently owned by Fayez Barakat.
Born in 1949 into an old farming family, Fayez was exposed to art from a very young age. The family owned vineyards in the Hebron Hills in Palestine and for generations villagers ploughing the fields would unearth objects - from coins and pottery all the way through to tombs. Rather than discarding or destroying the artefacts, as was often the case at the time, Fayez's grandfather preserved pieces. Intermittently he took his pieces from his collection to the marketplace, along with the family’s produce. It was bought by foreign tourists. As the family enterprise grew Fayez spent his formative years working alongside British archeologist Kathleen Kenyon, developing skills in the basic principles of field archeology, and he would later apply his passion to studying under renowned Middle Eastern scholars and archaeologists Nelson Glueck and William Dever. His interest, in particular, was in ancient coinage, though he would become a fervent student of whatever new period of art took his interest.
“For me to be able to connect to Emperor Constantine at the age of seven, after being told a coin I found was about 1,700 years old, simply blew my mind,” he says in a 2010 interview of finding his first coin, by accident, on the way to school. “I became such an avid lover of history at an early age.” Eventually Fayez turned down an opportunity to study medicine and joined the family business, helping to build it up across multiple locations in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. For the past 50 or so years Barakat has presided over the meteoric expansion of the gallery from a small shop in a Jerusalem Souq to a unique world-class collection and dealership with a global reach.
The early collections were classical, biblical, Egyptian and Mesoamerican, or pre-Columbian, art. The latter, in what emerges as a theme in his life story, was influenced by a chance meeting with the late American film director, screenwriter and actor John Huston, who would come to be a good friend and ultimately influence Barakat’s decision to set up his first overseas gallery in Beverly Hills in 1983. Barakat had already opened in Amman, Jordan, in 1973, while galleries in London (2003) and at the Emirates Palace (2008), Seoul (2016) and Hong Kong (2017) would come much later.
“California’s proximity to Mexico, its closeness to South and Central America and the availability of the material in Los Angeles that I was able to purchase and to trade in and to learn about,” are among the reasons listed by Barakat for the move to the US. In Jerusalem, Fayez had already begun to amass a storied clientele which was rumoured to include notable 20th-century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. It was a chance meeting with Picasso that Barakat has credited with his interest in African art, following their first encounter when Barakat was in his teens and Picasso was visiting the family gallery with the mayor of Jerusalem.
Throughout his life his culturally promiscious collecting habits seem increasingly infused with a similar sort of creative spirit as the artists with whom the collection intermitenetly dealt with - his collecting became less and less about obvious value and more and more about the spirit of the thing - "the things that I cherish the most have a personality that transcends their obvious appearances or function and which I call energy. Like beauty, it is to be found in the eye or the touch of the individual. Energy is partly the result of reality and partly the role of imagination, and everyone perceives it differently" - and so the collection evolved into one which became less and less obsessed with satisfying any one niché and more about being a site to preserve that tremendous, inarticulable, energy that drives us to make art in the first place.
Fayez has also experienced it's own share of tragic events with cancer robbing him of his first wife in 2009 just under two years after it claimed his son. When his wife first became ill, he would often retreat to a studio where he would paint into the early hours of the morning. Today, irrespective of where he is in the world, he paints nightly. As the galleries become increasingly self-reliant, Barakat is winding back on a gruelling schedule that has seen him travel every month between homes and galleries around the world and focusing on his paintings. As a personal gesture toward the continuum of art as part of human experience Fayez often hangs one of his works in every show at his ancient art galleries. Over the last decade he has become, in his own way, a hyper-prolific artist. His work can be found at fayezbarakat.art
1961 – 1967: Fayez employed by Kathleen Kenyon in excavating Jerusalem. During the last few years becomes her most trusted assistant.
1963-70: Fayez assists Professor Nelson Gleck, Professor William Dealer, and Gerald A. Larue in both excavation and research. His most notable scholarly collaborations from this period were with Pierre Deveaux and Father Spiekermann.
1963/4: Fayez is introduced to preeminent Egyptian jeweller and antiquarian Emil Saad, who helped him acquire first masterpiece neither excavated or inherited in Palestine of a Nefertem sculpture from the Omar Sultan collection. This item since became the gallery’s insignia and the gallery’s original concept was based on the symbolism of the deity’s openness to the world and culture as ‘the mirror of all ages and cultures’.
1967: First major gallery opened in Jerusalem’s Old City in partnership with family. Establishes first non-touristic antiquities collection recognised by the Israeli ministry of culture and tourism.
1967: Curates Moshe Dayan’s private art collection.
1969-71: Fayez initiates curatorial collaboration with Jiri Frel who introduces him to J.P. Getty. Fayez acquires numerous pieces for the Getty collection.
1970 – 1982: Independently opens largest gallery of museum quality Near Eastern, Classical and Egyptian antiquities in Bethlehem.
1970-83: Fayez acquires inventory for billionaire Bob Cummings, as well as previous owner of Sotheby’s Alfred Taubman.
1983: Metropolitan Museum endorses Fayez’s application for US citizenship, and the Getty, Tom Bradley and Fred Croton advocated for the opening of Barakat Gallery in Los Angeles.
1993: Fayez sells original container of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Martin Schoyen.
2003: Barakat London opens.
2007-2015: Abu Dhabi Gallery. Brought commercial non-Islamic antiquities for the first time to the UAE.
2016: Opening of Barakat Seoul.
2017: Opening of Hong Kong branch and relocation of Barakat Gallery in Beverly Hills to LCDQ.
Exerpt from “A Preface for The Collection”By Gerald A. Larue
As a young boy Fayez worked beside the famous British archaeologist, Dr. Kathleen Kenyon, sorting and identifying shards from her excavation in the ancient Jerusalem of King David’s time. Fayez became familiar with pottery classifications and with the basic principles of field archaeology.
His facility in learning languages was startling. With his photographic memory he could quickly master a new language, including vocabulary and grammar, and conduct intelligent conversations with visitors from different countries in Europe in their native languages.
At the age of fourteen, when he was deeply engrossed in reading medical textbooks in preparation for his intended career in medicine, he met Father James McGuire of Loyola University. The reverend father, as a good teacher, put Fayez to the test. He thumbed through the texts and asked questions of the young man. So impressed was he by Fayez’s answer that he offered him a Fullbright scholarship. When the papers arrived in Jerusalem, Fayez’s father distressed at the thought of being separated from his son, quietly secreted the documents until the time for accepting the invitation had elapsed.
During 1967 artifacts from plundered tombs in the hill country west of Hebron began to stream into Jerusalem. Fayez, like other merchants, made purchases from the villagers. He acquired numerous common household objects from periods extending from Middle Bronze I (2100-1900 B.C. ) through the Byzantine era (A.D. sixth century). Soon he began to accept only those choice items that represented the finest statements of the ancient craftsman’s art.
About this same time, Dr. Nelson Glueck, president of Hebrew Union College, a world-renowned scholar and archaeologist, invited Fayez to attend classes in the Jerusalem school. Soon he was enrolled in courses taught by the eminent Middle Eastern archaeologist, Dr. William Denver. Under the guidance of Father Spiekerman, director of the Museum of the Flagellation at the Second Station of the cross in Jerusalem, he researched ancient coinage. He read and studied archaeological journals, excavation reports, and the best sources in art history. Consequently, he has become one of those unique individuals whose knowledge combines the results of classroom studies, extensive reading and research, and practical field experience with intimate familiarity with artifacts developed through handling thousands of items.
Today, Fayez is more than a merchant; he is a connoisseur devoted to a dream. He believes he owes something to the archaeologists and instructors who helped develop his expertise-and indeed, to all who probe the past and help us appreciate our rich human heritage. He has undertaken a duty to preserve the past and to save from possible damage and loss these exquisite artistic statements. He has witnessed the destruction of precious ancient objects by simple villagers who feared fines for possession of such items or perhaps confiscation by the government of the land on which they were found. Once an artifact is destroyed, whatever it might tell us of the past is beyond recovery and its usefulness as a clue to the understanding the creative spirit is forever lost.
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Profile: Fayez Barakat, Barakat Gallery KoreaSeptember 1, 2016
5 minutes with Fayez BarakatOctober 1, 2016
Not Just Any Old Stuff! - An Interview With Fayez BarakatApril 1, 2003
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