A Look at the Barkat Collection
From Neolothic to Renaissance to 17th
- Century Fine Art
RODEO DRIVE & THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE
When Bruce Zuckerman, director of the archaeological
research collection of the University of Southern California, first discovered
the Barakat Gallery, he realized he had unearthed a real find.
"There is nothing commonplace about any of the antiquities
on display," explains the professor about his initial foray into the unusual
gallery located in Beverly Hills Rodeo Collection. Zuckerman deems
Barakats ancient art objects "antiquities that rival the great museum
collections of the world
a collection as rare and special as the
antiquities of which it is composed."
The art objects to which Zuckerman refers would boggle
just about any mind art scholars and laypersons alike. They
range from the Neolithic era through the Renaissance to the 17th
century. The collection could be the most extensive to be found in this
part of the world.
"We really dont have many ancient art dealers
here on the West Coast,"
says Dr. Selma Holo, director of the Fischer gallery
and the Museums Studies program at USC. The former curator of the Norton
Simon Museum says, "Its not like being in London where you can just
walk down the street and run into these people. We are lucky to have the
Holo, impressed by the quality of objects that Fayez
Barakat has brought to Southern California, is looking forward to showing
off some of the collection at a Fisher Gallery exhibit June 4 to July
2. She and a half-dozen student curators have selected eight pieces of
the Barakat Collection to be on view along with other important art works
from the Getty Museum, Yale University and the USC archaeological collection
in a show called "The Fusions of the Hellenistic World.
"The objects we are borrowing from Fayez Barakat
make a point about the impact of the Greek and Roman work on the Ancient
East," says Holo. She comments that the point of the upcoming exhibit
is to "show what the world was like before Alexander the Great went through
around the fourth century BC and then what it was like afterward,
up until the second or third century. All we really have to judge by are
the material remains, the pieces of art."
Once the exhibit is mounted, the Fisher Gallery will
be transformed so that "you will be able to have a sense of what the ancient
world was, where Alexander started and what the extent of his journey
was," says Holo. Giant maps covering the central gallery will give viewers
a sense of place, tracing the boundaries of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria,
and Israel and extending as far afield as India.
The dramatically lit exhibition room will feature
indigenous objects, some "that look very Greek and others that show the
melding of Greek and Roman cultures," says Holo.
For instance one piece from the Barakat collection,
a "nicely sculpted head of Roman Emperor Vitellius," perfectly illustrates
the latter, according to Holo. Another exhibition selection, borrowed
from Barakat, is a beautiful ancient menorah from Syria.
"It (the candelabrum) relates to the ancient Jewish tradition,"
explains Holo. "It shows the fighting against Hellenism, where the Greco-Roman
influence would show images of human beings. The Jewish tradition of the
Second Commandment denies the right to use graven images."
To show that the Greek and Roman influence was very
active as far away as Sinai, Barakat has lent the Fisher Gallery a piece
called the Leda and the swan. The small structure of unpainted stone,
based on an ancient Greek myth, suggests one of three things says Holo.
"Either the Greek and Roman settlers brought this
little sculpture with them or artisans from Greece and Rome came and settled
down and did work in the Sinai or the native artisans started working
in the Greek and Roman tradition. This piece is very interesting in that
it raises lots of questions"
Barakats contribution to the Fisher Gallery
makes up about a quarter of the entire exhibit. All of these pieces, along
with many of the others to be found in the Barakat Gallery in the Rodeo
Collection, are part of a new full-color catalogue introduced by the Gallerys
owner. Although published at $150 a piece, Fayez Barakat has set a price
of $30 for the beautiful book. It contains some 320-color plates, and
is elegantly hardbound, covered in light brown cloth with gold foil detailing.
This is the first of what will eventually be a three-volume set, with
the other two volumes set for publication in 1986 and 1987.
According to Barakat, "The contents of the catalogue
represent examples of the different periods of antiquities and the materials
that were used. Theres not an element used in antiquity that isnt
going to be found here." He feels this is the most important publication
on this subject available. "Although the catalogue will serve a commercial
purpose, it will also be a great art reference book for every major library
and every major art collector, says Barakat.
Why has this ancient art collector gone to such great
lengths, and to such great expense, to create a catalogue of this caliber?
The answer is best described in one passage of the catalogues
introduction: "In order to share with present and future generations who
are seeking a link with an ethnic bond, or merely to touch the lives of
others with a sense of beauty and truth of the ages, I have collected
and now make available these wonderful works of art which not only may
be viewed, but touched, viewed, and possessed. In this way, I hope I may
repay the enormous debt to my benefactors, and yet bring to man my share
of the contribution to his awesome heritage of beauty, wisdom and spiritual