The Gilbert Collection - A Gift to the Nation



Sir Arthur Gilbert - Biography

Arthur Gilbert was born Arthur Bernstein in 1913 in Golders Green, North London, where his parents had settled after leaving Poland in 1893, and where his father established a successful business as a furrier. On 18 December in 1934 Bernstein married Rosalinde Gilbert, a talented young dress designer, and took his wife's surname to become Arthur Gilbert. The following year they started their own evening gown business with Rosalinde as the designer and Arthur as the salesman, book-keeper and general factotum.

In 1949 at the age of 36 Mr Gilbert had made enough money to retire and decided to emigrate to California, looking for the sun and following in the footsteps of close relatives who had moved there at the turn of the century. Mr Gilbert embraced the Californian way of life but was unable to relax and, looking for business opportunities, became a very successful real estate developer.

Mr Gilbert said: "To me, making money just for the sake of making money doesn't make any sense. So I evolved into a collector. Simultaneously I began to support a number of charities in America and in the new State of Israel". He became a founder of the Los Angeles Music Center, a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where his collection was on loan for many years), a Director of the American Technion Foundation and Honorary Trustee of the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, a college for high-achieving students from all over the world.

In Europe Mr Gilbert founded the 'February 1941 Foundation' to thank the Dutch people for their humanitarian support of Dutch Jews and downed airman during the Second World War. The purpose of the Foundation is to educate children about anti-Semitism and discrimination and to fund special projects in schools in Holland. Among other charitable causes in Israel Mr and Mrs Gilbert founded the Arthur and Rosalinde Gilbert Centre for the Advancement of Scientific Research, built the first student dormitory, in memory of the Israeli athletes who were killed at the Munich Olympic Games, and erected a building at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the teaching of overseas students of all nationalities and religions.

Sir Arthur was rightly proud of the magnificent collection of works of art which he began in the 1960s. There are some 800 objects, essentially in three separate collections. English and Continental silver, now comprising over 200 pieces, European gold snuff boxes and Italian mosaics. In each of these fields the collection is among the most distinguished in the world and its gift to the British nation in 1996 is one of the most generous ever made. When he heard of the ambitious and imaginative plans for Somerset House including turning the Great Court into a concert area Arthur Gilbert said: "This enthralled me and enticed me to choose Somerset House because it would become a palace for the people of England and the world".

Arthur Gilbert was given the Albert Einstein Award in 1989, The Technion Award for Man of the Year in 1993 and Humanitarian of the Year Award from the College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1994. He continued to live in California and remained an avid collector. The ultimate beneficiaries of his efforts will be our future generations.

In June 1999 Arthur Gilbert was awarded the honour of Knight Bachelor in H.M. The Queen's Birthday Honours List.

This information was kindly supplied by:

Sue Bond Public Relations,
Hollow Lane Farmhouse, Hollow Lane,
Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP31 3RQ

Tel. 01359 271085
Fax 01359 271934


We are very grateful for Sue Bond's help in putting this article together.


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