Hicham Aboutaam, co-owner of Phoenix Ancient Art, on becoming an antiquities dealer:
“My parents were antiquities dealers and I knew when I was 12 or 13 that I wanted to be one too. I grew up in Beirut in a house that was filled with antiquities and I started collecting what my late father would let me collect. And then when I was 17, I thought why should I follow in the footsteps of my family tradition? I decided to become an architect. So I skipped antiquities and focused my studies on math and architecture. I studied for a year at the American University in Beirut. During my first semester I studied math, but by the end of the term I knew that I had return to ancient art, so I switched to archeology for the second semester.
“We left Lebanon permanently in 1987 and moved to the United States and Switzerland at the same time. I transferred to the University of Michigan, where I and got a degree. I was trying to graduate as soon as possible, so I would take as many credits as I could, because I just wanted to finish and go join the family business.” When I was in Michigan our family had an apartment in New York and a house in Geneva. After graduation, I was in both Geneva in New York, which developed into galleries in both places.
“My brother Ali went through a similar experience. He loved antiquities as a child and collected Greek and Roman coins. But when he was 17 he decided he wanted to be an engineer and he studied engineering. He went all the way through and then stopped and then went back to the world of ancient art. He is an expert with an eye for quality that is unsurpassed.”