Philip Hewat-Jaboor, the art collector, consultant and chairman of Masterpiece London fair since 2012, died at home in Jersey on 31 March after a brief illness. He leaves behind his partner of many years, the milliner Rod Keenan.
Although he thought at first he might enter the hotel trade, Hewat-Jaboor started his art career at Sotheby’s in 1972, joining the auction house's works of art course before specialising in 19th century furniture and works of art at the now-defunct Sotheby's Belgravia.
“I shelved what I was going to do work-wise and came and did that [course] for a year,” Hewat-Jaboor told Sotheby’s magazine in 2019. “We were taught by Derek Shrub who was one of the great communicators about not only works of art but of beauty in general; whether it was opera or food, but particularly works of art.” A firm believer in the importance of handling objects to truly understand them, he continued: “I’ve never believed personally in the difference between contemporary works of art and traditional works of art. To me objects are either good or bad, beautiful or ugly, whatever their age or origin.”
After a stint developing Sotheby’s client advisory services department, Hewat-Jaboor launched his own advisory in 1982, working with collectors, museums and interior designers.
"The word that keeps popping into my mind was that Philip was a mentor," Keenan tells The Art Newspaper. "He loved sharing his knowledge with students and collectors. He inspired people—his clients became real collectors."
Hewat-Jaboor was also an ardent collector of diverse interests, accumulating everything from antique furniture, sculpture and hardstone vases to ancient Egyptian artefacts, porcelain and vintage photography. Of particular academic interest were the collections of William Beckford and Thomas Hope; Hewat-Jaboor co-curated the exhibitions William Beckford: An Eye for the Magnificent (2001) and Thomas Hope: Regency Designer (2008), both at The Bard Graduate Center, New York, of which he was a trustee alongside the US-based Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.
Hewat-Jaboor is remembered as a kind, flamboyant character, one who drove a Bentley with custom porphyry-effect paintwork—such was his devotion to the stone. The New York-based art agent Puppa Sayn-Wittgenstein Nottebohm, who first met Hewat-Jaboor in 1982, described him as an “incredibly dapper man in a long cashmere coat”. He was “one of the great and nicest men in our business, a business which is not known to be littered with nice characters. He was always so generous with his knowledge and gave such good advice,” she says. Sayn-Wittgenstein agrees that, as an advisor, he was well-trusted: “His word was better than any seven-page contract.”
The London-based art dealer Duncan McLaren met Hewat-Jaboor when he was at Sotheby's in the 1970s. "Philip was genuinely content and happy in many places but certainly a favourite was searching the porphyry mines and studying the ancients of Egypt," McLaren says. "He had a clear view of excellence in many fields."
Egypt was Hewat-Jaboor’s “spiritual home”, Sayn-Wittgenstein says. “It was eye-opening to travel through Egypt with him, he knew every stone.” Hewat-Jaboor’s parents moved to Jersey in the Channel Islands in the 1970s and he later inherited their home in St Lawrence, a pair of 17th century cottages which were restored and expanded to house much of his collection alongside a purpose-built library and wine cellar. Although he split his time between Jersey, London and the home he shared with Keenan in New York, Hewat-Jaboor was actively involved with island life, and was chair of the arts charity ArtHouse Jersey.
“His dedication to connoisseurship, learning, beauty and excellence translates across every aspect of the fair,” Masterpiece London says in a statement. “A mentor to so many, Philip was passionate about building an art market for the future, championing a new generation of specialists, collectors and curators. His legacy of openness and curiosity is central to Masterpiece and will be celebrated at the forthcoming edition in June.”
Lucie Kitchener, the fair’s managing director who worked closely with Hewat-Jaboor, says: “The art world will be a lesser place without him. His expertise, passion for collecting, desire to share what he knew and sheer joy of life were unparalleled and I was lucky to count him not just as a colleague but as a very dear friend.”