Sir Arthur Gilbert - 1913-2001
Arthur Gilbert was born 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, Gilbert was married to a talented young dress designer named Rosalinde. 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, 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, he became a very successful real estate developer.
Gilbert has 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, 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, have built the first student dormitory, in memory of the Israeli athletes who were killed at the Munich Olympic Games, and are erecting a building at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the teaching of overseas students of all nationalities and religions.
Sir Arthur is 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, and in June of 1999, Arthur Gilbert was awarded the honor of Knight Bachelor in H.M. The Queen's Birthday Honors List.
Originally an avid tennis player, Gilbert sustained a mild injury at the age of 80, rendering him incapable of playing for a brief period of time. During his recovery, he took a shine to ping-pong, spawning what became a passion that gripped him for the remainder of his life.
His interest in the sport became apparent to the world in 1996, when in conjunction with Z&M Table Tennis, Los Angeles played host the first inaugural Gilbert Cup - an international table tennis tournament bested in prestige only by the Olympics and the World Championships. Staged at the historic Beverly Hilton Hotel, this monumental competition granted local players and fans alike the opportunity to watch the world's top ranked players in action. Never before had all of the greatest players in the world met to compete on US soil.
The success of the first Gilbert Cup was such that in the two following years, the Tournament returned - this time to UCLA's John Wooden Center. Marking Los Angeles' first foray into world class table tennis, the Gilbert Cup was as important for the emergence of the sport in the United States as it was prestigious from an international perspective.
Now, via the combined efforts of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, The Westside Jewish Community Center, and Z&M co-founders Mikhail Zaretsky and Lloyd McQueen, the impact of Gilbert's efforts are commemorated by the birth of the Gilbert Table Tennis Center in 2003. As the sport of table tennis continues its rise to the forefront of American culture, the generosity, passion and labor of Sir Arthur Gilbert will be fondly remembered.