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East–West: The Art of Dialogue
An Initiative of the
Shafik Gabr Foundation
583 Park &
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's
Temple of Dendur
December 3, 2012

Written by Wendy R Williams
Photo Credit:
Patrick McMullen

This fall, when the world was not busy watching the government of the United States's totally manufactured "Thelma and Louise" style race off a mythical fiscal cliff, all eyes were on Egypt. One of the early countries of the 2011 "Arab Spring," first there were massive demonstrations, then Mubarek's resignation and the elections and finally in 2012, a new President. All seemed well (for a short moment) and then it was time to write a new Constitution and the country erupted again. Why? Because the people of Egypt had yet to collectively define the word "freedom." And how do we know this? We looked and watched from afar through the lens of cameras on the street. And thus it has always been. For anyone to understand a foreign world, first they must see it and then they must talk.

Shafik Gabr is from Egypt where he is the head of Artoc. He is also a passionate collector of Orientalist art, the paintings of middle eastern scenes and subjects made by American and European artists in the 18th and 19th century such as Ludwig Deutsch, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Fredrick Arthur Bridgman, and Gustav Bauernfeind. Many of these artists spent years in the Orient, painting a world that must have appeared quite exotic to them. And when their paintings were exhibited in Europe, their vision of the East changed the way Europeans viewed the Orient.
Mr.Gabr has accumulated a large collection of these beautifully romantic paintings and his collection has now been published in "Masterpieces of Orientalist Art: The Shafik Gabr Collection.”

Mr. Gabr has often spoken about his desire to use art as way to start a conversation between the East and the West and so he has formed a foundation, The Shafik Gabr Foundation, to create (from the Foundation's website) "a new initiative to enhance critical understanding and co-operation amongst young emerging leaders in the Arab World and the West through a global exchange project."

On Monday, December 3, 2012 The Shafik Gabr Foundation hosted a symposium at 583 Park to address two questions: "Early Globalists: What Do the Orientalist Travelers Have to Teach Us Today" and "Beyond Government Diplomacy: How Can We Address East West Challenges?"

Shafik Gabr and Robert Frye at the Symposium

Guests at The Symposium

Liz Peek and Adrienne Vittadini at the Symposium

The panel discussions at the symposium were moderated by Erin Burnett, CNN Anchor, an expert on international and diplomatic issues. She was joined by eight panelists: Nayan Chanda, Editor YaleGlobal Online, Yale Center for the Study for the Study of Globalization; Sanford Climan, President, Entertainment Media Ventures; Hussein Fahmy, Actor and Regional Ambassador of Goodwill to the Special Olympics and former President of the Cairo International Film Festival; Lord Poltimore, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby's. Sir Graeme Lamb, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University and former Commander of the UK Field Army at Land Command; Brian Sullivan, "Street Signs" Co-Anchor, CNBC, Senator John Sununu, New Hampshire 2003 – 2009; and James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute.

Other guests at the symposium included: H.E. Ambassador Abdel Aziz, Jim Cohen, Mahmoud Addalla, Susan Gutfrend, H.R.H. Princess Michael of Kent, Muna Rihani, Georgette Mosbacher, Eric Parnes, Liz Peek, Roberto Powers, Sen. Salih Metlu, Ahu Serter, Al and Veronica Trenk, Ambassador Yousef Zada, Adrienne Vittadini, Michael and Eleanora Kennedy and Ms. Monique Van Vooren.

Amr and Hanan Al Jowaily admire "Egyptian Girl" by Gerome

Admiring "Egyptian Girl" by Gerome and "The Algerian Spinner" by Taupin

That evening, the Foundation hosted a private dinner at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur where fifteen pieces from Mr. Gabr's collection were on view. The Gabr's hosted a receiving line and greeted each one of the over four hundred guests.

Shafik Gabr Speaks at the Dinner at the Temple of Dendur

Shafik Gabr, Gigi Gabr, Brian Sullivan and Julie Sullivan

Mr. Gabr and Brian Sullivan spoke to the guests about Mr. Gabr’s initiative and how Gabr views his collection as a ‘global cultural exchange’ and how he is inspired by the experiences of the Orientalist Traveler painters, the artists whose work he has been collecting for over twenty years. Mr. Sullivan told a story about how when archeologists excavated an over two thousand year old site in the Middle East, they found a "note" from a wife to her husband commenting on the neighbors new home and inquiring about when they too would also have such an abode. It appears that we are all quite the same, regardless of century or continent.

Dinner guests included: H. E. Ambassador Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz, H. E. Ambassador & Mrs.Youssef Zada, James Bennett, Mr.& Mrs. Robert Blackstone, Monica Crowley, Ann Dexter- Jones, H. E. Ambassador & Mrs. Ferry de Kerckhove, Mr. & Mrs. John Gutfreund, Mr. & Mrs. Mr. John B Hess, Mr. & Mrs. Valentin Hernandez, Mr. & Mrs. Michael Kennedy, H. R. H. Princess Michael of Kent, Ms. Mary McFadden, Ms. Georgette Mosbacher, Ann Nitze, Craig & Sandy O’Callaghan, Scott & Beth O’Callaghan, Tony & Patti O’Callaghan, Lord Poltimore, Mr. Ed Rollins, Jill Sackler, Ambassador Shake, Brian & Julie Sullivan, Ms. Monique Van Vooren, Mr. & Mrs. Vittadini, and Alec Wildenstein.

The Party at The Temple of Dendur

Nadine El Alfi, Muna Rihani, Jehane el Alfi, Gigi Gabr, Shafik Gabr,
Osama Mohsen and Mohamed Ramzi

Artist Eric Parnes, Rebecca Weber, Gigi Gabr and Shafik Gabr

Eva and Mona Hassani

Jill Sackler, Mary McFadden and Georgette Mosbacher

Hussein Fahmy and Louise and Ferry de Kerckhove

Mohamed Ramzi, Muna Rihani and Roberto Powers

Tony, Beth, Sandy and Patti O'Callaghan

Joseph Zoccali and his Fiancée

Faith Baranowski admiring Fromentin'e "Le Simoun"

Additional New York Cool Articles about Shafik Gabr and "The Shafik Gabr Collection:"













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