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Barakat Gallery

Pieces of the Past

By Maud Dawson


Compared to the vast, echoing recesses of the British Museum or the Metropolitan, the Barakat Gallery is unimposing. Where similarities to museums begin is with what the shelves contain: a collection of antiquities from different periods and cultures ranging from 6,000 BC to the 17th century. Fayez Barakat, the proprietor of this store, is a member of a family that owns four galleries. In addition to the one in Los Angeles, there are two in Jerusalem, and one on the historic Rachel’s Tomb Road in Bethlehem. According to Mr. Barakat, together they make the Barakat family the largest dealers of antiquities in the world.

The first Barakat store opened almost eighty years ago in Jerusalem, originally with stock that catered to tourists in search of a quaint souvenir. At that time, the more valuable collectibles were kept among the family members, who found many of them on the land they owned and were well known for their collection of ancient Middle Eastern art. Mr. Barakat’s own interest in antiquities began at the age of 5 on the day he was playing in the family vineyards and found a Roman coin – "and since that day, you know, I’m crazy about it," he says with a laugh.

And what advice does Mr. Barakat give to budding collectors? Mr. Barakat says:

"Visiting a major museum, people usually find certain subjects in that museum that fascinate them. And I think my tip to any new collector is to pursue the field or the period or the culture, you see, that he feels he is capable of communicating [with]… That’s the best way: to pursue a genuine interest that’s totally subconscious, the energy in that art relates to you at that phase of your life." He adds:

"Art itself is a level of awareness, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are certain beautiful things that may be seen as being ugly by others, and certain ugly things that certain people can see great beauty in… A genuine object has an aura and a personality."

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