Pre-Columbian art refers to the visual arts of indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America before the late 15th century, and the time period marked by Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. It is often broken up into three distinct periods from Pre-classic (13,000 BC- 200 AD), to Classic (c. 200-900 AD), and Post-Classic (c. 900-1580 AD). It contains art and artifacts created by a wide variety of cultures from the storied Olmec, Maya, and Aztec, to the legendary Inca, Moche, and Guanacoste Nicoya. The Barakat Collection contains masterpieces from each and every one of these civilzations amongest many others and hosts what is perhaps the world’s finest collection of Olmec masks along with hundreds of significant Mayan Cylindrical vessels and Atlantic Watershed region basalt statues.
When asked in an interview many years ago “What do you collect these days?” Mr. Barakat resolutely responded with “Pre-Columbian art. It’s a lively kind of art, very human, a vibrant mirror of the cultures that created it. Almost every Pre-Columbian artifact is endowed with a distinct personality, as if it were alive and could speak about where it had been and what it had seen. It is an art that evokes strong emotions. On the face of a ceramic tomb figure from West Mexico we might read laughter and joy, or perhaps grief, anger, even quiet contemplation. We feel a kinship with the sculpture because we have experienced such moods ourselves, and unlike certain great cities and civilizations, these feelings have not vanished from the earth with the passage of centuries. Pre-Columbian meets all my personal criteria for collecting: it is exciting to the eye, warm to the touch, and it sends the imagination traveling on exotic journeys of discovery.”