The Barakat Gallery
By Morgan Davis
Perhaps the most precious pair of shoes
on Rodeo Drive is a humble pair of sandals in the Barakat Gallery. Made
of papyrus in the Sinai sometime between 3,200 to 3,300 years ago
a time when only nobility wore sandals the little shoes suggest
the princess who must have worn them proudly.
The Barakat Gallery is a collection of genuine museum-quality
artifacts offered among the wood, lucite and shimmering elegance of Rodeo
Drive. Here are objects that were meticulously preserved for the journey
through the centuries, perhaps as offerings to the dead, in respect to
their religious subject matter. Or, perhaps, simply because of their aesthetic
value. The humid odor of ancient tombs lingers upon the artifacts, treasures
kissed with the dust of the civilizations that created them.
There is a sense of grace, beauty, and life of times
gone by an energy of the people who created these works evoking
inspiration in my being and the disparity of the life we live today. Images
of another way of life in which time was spent to create art to live throughout
the ages and remind us of the true spirit of mankind.
The Barakat Gallery specializes in pieces that reflect
the religion or myth of different ancient cultures, but includes art objects
from all periods of history. The collection reflects the enthusiasm for
eclectic antiquities of its owner, Fayez Barakat. He is of the fourth
generation of a family world-renowned for its collection of ancient art
of the Middle and Near East.
Admitting that he became "saturated" with the biblical
and classical treasures of the Middle East, Barakat began to concentrate
on other ancient periods. His studies have covered the Neolithic period
of 6000 BC to the Renaissance of the 17th century.
Ancient sculptures of mythological gods include a
bronze figure of Ishtar holding a solar disk, a Babylonian piece from
900 to 700 BC; a silver sculpture of Jupiter, god of lightning, from the
Roman period of art, dating from the first to third century AD, found
in Hebron, Israel; and a terra-cotta plaque of Astarte, goddess of fertility,
discovered in Syria, dating from 2100 to 1700 BC.
A three dimensional representation
of Alexander the Great, in marble, shows the young heros sensual
lips smiling sweetly and was sculpted after his death, 150 to 200 AD.
The piece is valued at $1 million, as is a pure gold hair net of the Hellenistic
period. Also, among the collection of antiquities in the gallery is a
stone lintel depicting a menorah dating from the Second Temple period.
Several priceless Islamic documents that rival the Dead Sea scrolls, and
the earliest copy of the bible in the world.
Less costly items include oil lamps, seals, amulets,
icons, necklaces, coins, and jewelry pieces of which range as low as $50.
The centerpiece of Barakats coin collection
is a set of silver coins, "Shekels of Tyre," displaying the profile of
Melqart (Hercules). Found in Jerusalem, they are the same types of coins
of which 30 pieces were paid to Judas for betraying Christ.
"I take a certain pride in my collection of ancient
glass," Barakat says simply. From the period 1600 BC to 1200 AD, glass
was considered precious and most jewelry was made of it, he says. In addition
to ancient necklaces made of glass beads, the gallery houses an array
of glass vessels that were preserved in tombs untouched for centuries.
There is a hand-cut piece of glass that dates to the time of Moses.
Barakats grandfather, who had extensive landholdings
used as vineyards near Jerusalem, realized the historic and aesthetic
value of ancient art. As his fields were plowed, workers often unearthed
tombs rich in remnants from the past. His grandfather encouraged the workers
to bring him the pieces and he would recompense them.
The Barakat family is one of the oldest families
in the world that have been suppliers of archaeological artifacts and
coins to Museums, corporations, investors and collectors all around the
"For the last 20 years, my interest in life has only
been collecting and studying antiquities," says Barakat. He speaks of
a personal relationship to each of the pieces in his collection, a sense
of humanity reaching out to humanity across the boundaries of time.
"I believe that art conveys a message and I constantly
search for that message. Each piece is dear and I would not part with
it unless I was sure I was selling it to the right person."