Interview with Chara Schreyer

One of the world’s leading collectors has a unique gift for supporting the Israel Philharmonic


As an arts patron, Chara Schreyer has been ranked by ArtNews among the world’s top 200 collectors for 16 consecutive years. As a philanthropist, her support for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is one-of-a-kind.

In March, Schreyer hosted an event for the AFIPO’s West Coast Chairman’s Council, providing a personal tour of the Hollywood Hills home she and husband Gordon Freund share with major works by Andy Warhol, Robert Morris, Lee Bontecou, and many others.

“It went really well,” she said by phone from her San Francisco home, another of the five homes she showcases in Art House, a book she co-authored with Gary Hutton, the interior designer she has collaborated with for 40 years. The book, in its third printing by Assouline Publishing, includes photos and descriptions of roughly half her 600-piece collection.

“I had 500 people from different organizations come through on tours just last year,” she added. “I talk about my collection and how these major artists of the 20th and 21st centuries have changed and are continuing to change the course of art history. Mark Bradford, for example, a young artist who has gone meteoric. He just did the Venice Biennale for America. I have a great Mark Bradford.”

“Chara is a distinguished member of our West Coast Chairman’s Council and has hosted several exquisite events for our patrons over the years,” said Danielle Ames Spivak, the AFIPO’s West Coast Director. “Most notably, she hosted a memorable private recital with Yuja Wang including a dinner party that our members are still talking about. Members of the WCCC get treated to exceptional once-in-a-lifetime experiences as a thank you for their involvement and Chara hosts like no one else.”

It was Schreyer’s longtime friend Arnon Adar who first engaged her to help the IPO. Adar is an AFIPO Board Member and a business associate of Schreyer’s father, Max Webb.

“Arnon asked if we would host an event in our L.A. house, which at that time was relatively brand new,” she recalled. “And, of course we said, yes, we would be delighted to do it. It was the recital by pianist Yuja Wang and it was a very successful event.”

The 2014 event, for which Schreyer rented a grand piano that had to be lifted by crane onto the outdoor patio, benefitted the IPO’s education programs and came when Wang was relatively new on the scene.

“Then we met Danielle,” she continued, “and, of course, we think she does a spectacular job. Whenever we can we love to attend concerts and were at the Disney Hall concert and Gala with Zubin Mehta in October. That was wonderful.”

Schreyer was born in Munchberg, Germany, where her Polish-born father relocated after surviving six concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and a dozen labor camps. In Munchberg he started a textile business with Nathan Shapell, a fellow survivor and the brother of Webb’s first wife, Sala. In 1952 the families moved to Los Angeles, where Webb, Shapell, and Shapell’s brother David became successful real estate developers.

“Israel is very close to my family’s heart,” said Schreyer, whose father and second wife, Anna, provided naming grants for Tel Aviv University’s School of Languages Building and the School of Psychology Building at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

As Israel’s primary cultural ambassador, the Israel Philharmonic is an important institution for Schreyer and her family.

“We have very close ties to the Jewish community there,” she said. “Last May my whole family went to Israel for my grandson’s bar mitzvah, which was held at Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.”

Schreyer, who is on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, started the Kadima Foundation in 1997 to provide philanthropic support.

“My focus is the arts and diabetes,” she said.

The involvement in diabetes is also personal, going back to Mother’s Day 1982, when her then 4-year-old daughter Justine was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In 2016, the Greater Bay Area Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) honored Schreyer for her decades of support with its Living and Giving Award. Justine was there to introduce her mother.

Now, her involvement with the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, through events that are both personal and creative, is helping the AFIPO redefine the art of IPO support.

“Earlier in 2018 we launched an East Coast Chairman’s Council,” said American Friends CEO Naomi Grabel. “We are fortunate to have these membership groups of supporters for the Israel Philharmonic that are centered around a shared love of music and of Israel. Access to amazing private events in NY and LA offers a terrific way to support the IPO, meet other interesting people, and enjoy unique happenings.”

“Chara is such an authentic, witty, brilliant, creative woman who warmly shares her knowledge about art with friends and art lovers from around the world when they visit her collection,” said Spivak. “We are so fortunate that Chara believes so strongly in the power of music too, and is such an important friend of the Israel Philharmonic.”