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Meet The Collector Behind The Kimbell’s ‘Samurai!’

by Alan Melson 20 Feb 2014 2:50 PM

In 2008, KERA’s CEO interviewed Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, the wealthy, Swiss-born developer behind the Harwood District in Dallas — who now should be better known as the collector behind the Kimbell’s magnificent Samurai! show. With VIDEO.



Over here at KERA, we happen to be surrounded by Gabriel Barbier-Mueller’s multi-billion-dollar developments, a collection of gleaming towers he calls ‘the Harwood District.’ For those who don’t know, it’s a few blocks up McKinnon Street toward the Tollway from Uptown, and the collection includes the luxury condo tower Azure, the Rolex Building, a bunch of office towers with addresses for names (2728 Harwood) as well as the headquarters of Harwood International itself.

And if you speed along McKinnon — as many of us do, in our regular commute — you can catch glimpses of some of Barbier-Mueller’s other collection, his magnificent assembly of art, armor and weapons from the age of the Japanese samurai (plus the occasional mounted armor from other cultures as well). More than 140 items from the collection are currently at the Kimbell in Samurai!, but individual items have long been on display in the glass lobbies of several of the Harwood buildings — as well as in the second floor of St. Ann Court, the official home of the Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.

When Lee Cullum interviewed Barbier-Mueller for CEO in October 2008, much of their discussion, naturally, was about his big plans for the Dallas skyline and how the million-dollar downtown condo market was currently under-served. But just before the video above hits the 22-minute mark, talk turns to art collecting, how Barbier-Mueller’s grandfather was an art collector (the family helped found two museums — one in Geneva, the other in Barcelona — before St. Ann Court) and why he finds armor so compelling. Unfortunately, he doesn’t relate the story he did in Fort Worth at the preview of Samurai! — how, at age 14, he was impressed by the Wallace Collection in London, notably its superb suits of European armor. He wanted his children to have the same experience — to see these expressions of knighthood and understand all it represented, not just military prowess, but nobility, artistic appreciation, discipline and self-restraint, the seven values of bushido, the samurai code.

Eventually, the armor collection outgrew the family home and the various lobbies. But of the 900,000 visitors who’ve already visited the Samurai show in Paris, Boston, Portland and Quebec, Barbier-Mueller and his wife Anne, he said, are proudest of the large number of children who’ve seen it.