ناصر داوود خلیلی
|Born||18 December 1945|
|Alma mater||Queens College, City University of New York|
School of Oriental and African Studies
|Website||Khalili Collections website Khalili Foundation website|
Nasser David Khalili (Persian: ناصر داوود خلیلی, born 18 December 1945) is a British-Iranian scholar, collector, and philanthropist based in London. He is a British citizen. Khalili is the founder of the Khalili Collections, which is said to include the finest and most comprehensive collection of Islamic art in private hands. Khalili was born in Iran, before leaving the country to study in the United States. He graduated from Queens College, City University of New York in 1974 with a computer science degree. He later received a PhD degree in Islamic art in 1988, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, writing his thesis on Islamic lacquer.
He first started to collect art in New York during the 1970s, while also spending a lot of time in London investing in property during the 1980s. Over the coming decades, Khalili created eight distinct art collections under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust. Khalili is said to have initially generated capital in the 1980s through the sale of a company and also venture capital. Since then his wealth has grown substantially, which he stated in an interview was due to "dealing in art, commodities and real estate." Khalili is known for the purchase of a number of large properties in London. One of his properties in Kensington Palace Gardens, was sold to Bernie Ecclestone for £57 million. He was also the co-owner of Sixty London on Holborn Viaduct, London. It is currently leased by Amazon as their London office.
In 1995, he founded the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation where he serves as Chairman. Khalili is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and has addressed a number of high-level dignitaries on behalf of the United Nations and UNESCO. He is also a trustee of the City of Jerusalem and has received knighthoods from two Popes.
Many commentators have drawn up different values for his works over the years, many valuations were made without public knowledge of what the collections contained. More accurate values have been published more recently after publications and exhibitions demonstrated what the collections contained.
When asked about his collections and wealth, Khalili stated in an interview that he "took it upon himself to buy everything that was available...I found things that belonged to a great heritage that was just sitting there unnoticed...They were displaced from history and deserved to be preserved and recognised".
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Business and collecting career
- 3 Khallili Collections
- 4 Exhibitions
- 5 Property development
- 6 UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Financial
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Early life and education
Khalili was born in 1945 in the city of Isfahan, Iran, the fourth of five children, to a Jewish family of art dealers and traders of artefacts. Khalili and his family moved to Tehran, Iran, when he was only a few months old. By the age of eight, he was accompanying his father on buying expeditions, often buying items such as Persian lacquer and other Islamic arts.
He studied in Tehran and wrote a book about the "geniuses of the world", aged 14. It was suggested in many news articles that Khalili had written the book following an argument with one of his teachers. After the book was published, Khalili featured on television discussing his book and also wrote columns in newspapers.
Khalili completed his national service in Iran as a medic in the Iranian Army, before leaving Iran in 1967 for the United States with $750 earned from sales of his book. He studied computer science and earned a BA degree in the subject at Queens College, City University of New York, and graduated in 1974.
Business and collecting career
Khalili started his business career trading in art, before moving into property development and commodities. Khalili began collecting art in New York City in the 1970s, keeping the best pieces for his own collection.
He began visiting London auction houses in the mid 1970s, and established his own gallery in Mayfair, London between in 1978 to 1980. Khalili initially traded in Persian lacquerware, and subsequently wrote a thesis on the subject, receiving a PhD degree in Islamic art from SOAS, University of London in 1988. His focus on lacquerware also coincided with many undervaluing this art form. In 1978, the price of Islamic art fell substantially according to an article in Saudi Aramco World. Aramco World stated in the article that Khalili continued to invest in Islamic art during this period and this was one of the reasons he was able to acquire so many quality works for low prices.
People close to Khalili stated that he invested wisely and often discreetly. In a London Evening Standard article, Michael Spink stated the following about Khalili's collection and growth of wealth; "he would buy items for £2,000 which, over a long period, appreciated to £200,000. People did not always realise that it was him doing the buying." Khalili's dealership was based in Mayfair's Clifford Street in the 1980s. When asked directly how he had gathered his wealth during the 1970s and 1980s, Khalili stated it was from sugar and coffee trading, the options market, property investments and works of art.
In the mid-1980s, the scale of Khalili's collection greatly expanded. In the early 1990s, he began to publish a 27-volume catalogue of his Islamic art collection, for which he commissioned a number of leading Islamic scholars. In 1992, he was interviewed by The Independent following the launch of the first volume of this catalogue of Islamic art. According to the article, suspicions in the art industry were that Khalili was assembling the collection on behalf of a rich investor. The release of the collection under his own name stopped those suspicions and showed Khalili's collection as belonging to himself and his family.
During the same period, Khalili was an art advisor to Hassanal Bolkiah, The Sultan of Brunei. Khalili subsequently helped persuade the sultan to donate £10 million to create the Brunei Gallery at SOAS, University of London.
In 1992, Khalili offered to lend his Islamic art collection to the British government for a period of 15 years and on condition it is publicly displayed in a "museum building in central London." It was suggested that the museum would be known as the Khalili Museum, with the running costs of the museum and insurance to be publicly funded. The offer was made with the potential for turning the donation into a gift at the expiration of the 15-year period. The Conservative politician Lord Young of Graffham and the public relations executive Lord Bell lobbied the government to accept Khalili's offer. Many expressed an interest in the proposal by Khalili for a London-based Islamic museum, including Prince Charles.
Khalili has assembled eight distinct art collections under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust and they are collectively referred to as the Khalili Collections. The collections are divided into Islamic Art dating from 700 to 2000; Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage from 700 to 2000; Aramaic Documents from 535BC to 324 BC; Japanese Art of the Meiji Period from 1868 to 1912; Japanese Kimono from 1700 to 2000; Swedish Textiles from 1700 to 1900; Spanish Damascened Metalwork from 1850 to 1900 and Enamels of the World from 1700 to 2000.
The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art is a 27-volume series, which was curated by Dr. Julian Raby, the Director of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The collection has holdings of more than 28,000 objects documenting arts from Islamic lands over a period of 1,400 years. It ranks amongst the best collection of its kind in the world. The collection includes manuscripts of the Holy Qur'an, rare and illustrated manuscripts, album paintings, bookbindings, lacquer, ceramics, glass and rock crystal, metalwork, scientific instruments, arms and armour, jewellery, carpets and textiles, coins and architectural elements. 
The Hajj and the arts of pilgrimage collection is one of the most important groups of works globally, relating to Hajj and the arts associated with it. The works in the collection range from the Umayyad period to the 21th century. The collection aims to represent an overview of the subject, illustrating various religious and artistic aspects of the pilgrimages to various holy cities. The collection contains approximately 3,000 objects, including over 250 textiles and many other objects relating to Mecca and Medina. The combined collection is the second largest collection of its kind, with the Topkapı Palace museum the only larger collection globally.
The Khalili Collection of Aramaic documents is a small but special collection of 48 Aramaic documents from Ancient Bactria. The majority of the collection is made up of part letters and accounts connected with the court of the Satrap of Bactria. The significance of the documents is that they are the oldest correspondence of the administration of Bactria and Sogdiana. The documents are written in Official Aramaic and were likely from the historical city of Balkh. The documents are dated in a period of less than 30 years, between 353BC to 324BC. The newest of the documents were written during Alexander the Great's early reign in the region.
The Japanese Art of the Meiji period collection is made up of the world's greatest collection of Meiji decorative art. It comprises over 1,400 pieces in the collection, including metalwork, enamels, Lacquerwork and ceramics. The pieces are from the period of Emperor Meiji's rule from 1868-1912. The period saw a cultural revolution in Japan, where traditional tastes in Japan were met with international ones. From the beginning of Meiji's reign in Japan, European and international collectors have avidly sought pieces of Japanese art from this era.
Khalili's second Japanese-based collection is The Khalili Collection of kimono. The collection consists of three hundred years of the Japanese textile industry and contains over 450 garments. While the kimono's T-shaped design hasn't altered much over the centuries, yet the collection reveals an astonishing variety in kimono designs. The garments have been worn to demonstrate gender, age, status and wealth throughout Japan's history. The collection mainly represents four separate period's, the Edo period (1603-1868), the Meiji period (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1926) and early Showa (1926-1989), with a few selected pieces produced later on.
The Khalili Collection of Swedish Textiles comprises textile panels, dating between 1700-1900. The majority of the works are from a one hundred-year period, when little is known about the area of Scania, the southern-most region of Sweden. The textile collection contains art mostly made for wedding ceremonies in the region. While they played a part in the ceremonies, they were also a reflection of the artistry and skill of the weaver. Their designs often consist of symbolic illustrations of fertility and long life, inspiring a sense of hope and joy. The entire collection is made up of nearly 100 pieces.
Spanish damascene metalwork collection, is one of the largest collections of its kind. The collection pay homage to the Zuloga family, who played a major part in the preservation of damascening in Spain. The collection contains some of the most important pieces commissioned by Plácido Zuloga between 1834-1910. Some of the pieces were originally acquired by the great 19th-century English collector, Alfred Morrison. The entire collection comprises of over 100 pieces, 22 of which are signed by Plácido Zuloaga. The collection is said to be one of the best representations of Spanish metalwork art during the latter half of the 19th century.
The formation of the Enamels of the World collection was based upon the global significance and evolution of enamelling. The entire collection consists of over 1,300 pieces and seeks to explore the unique art form in a wider scope. What makes the collection unique, is enamels are usually studied with a particular focus, such as a geographical region, era or enamelling technique. The collection aims to tell a story of how enamelling has evolved throughout history on a global scale.
Together, the eight collections comprise some 35,000 works. The Khalili Collections will be fully represented in a series of over 100 books, including exhibition catalogues, of which over 70 have already been published. Khalili estimated that the publication of the catalogues and associated research papers would cost him between £20-30 million.
Khalili's collections have featured in numerous museums and specialist exhibitions around the world. Selected objects from his collections have been shown in several major worldwide museums and been displayed as part of international exhibitions such as the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Somerset House (London); the State Hermitage Museum (St Petersburg); the Alhambra Palace (Granada); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); Portland Art Museum (Oregon, US); and the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam) to name a few.
The majority of Khalili's artworks are kept in storage in London and Geneva.
18–19 Kensington Palace Gardens
In 1995 Khalili bought 18 and 19 Kensington Palace Gardens for £40 million. 19 had been the former Egyptian embassy and 18 was formerly part of the Russian embassy. Khalili's purchase of the property and its subsequent refurbishment cost £84 million. The works involving 400 craftsmen were believed to have been second in scale only to the restoration of Windsor Castle after the 1992 fire. Marble was imported from the same Indian quarry that had been used to build the Taj Mahal for pillars for the building. It was bought by businessman Bernie Ecclestone in 2001 for £54 million. Ecclestone later sold the property to industrialist Lakshmi Mittal.
In 1997, Khalili bought Bath House, an office building on Holborn Viaduct for £7 million. In 2007 planning permission was granted for an 11-storey office building called The Wave and subsequently in 2009 Khalili acquired the freehold from the crown estates. The building, which eventually completed in 2013, designed by the architects Kohn Pederson Fox Associates. Since 2010 the project had been a partnership between Khalili's property company Favermead and AXA Real Estate Investment Managers. The new 230,000 sq ft building was later leased by Amazon in 2013. In 2014 the building became one of the 13 winners in the Urban Land Institute’s Global Awards for Excellence, citing the blending of modern and historic architectural elements.
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador
In 2012, Khalili was honored by UNESCO as a goodwill ambassador for his work in the pursuit of peace, education and culture amongst nations. In his role as a Goodwill Ambassador, Khalili spreads the ideals of UNESCO through his position as a scholar, collector and philanthropist. He helps galvanize public interest and support for the purposes and principles of UNESCO to significant audiences.
He has addressed dignitaries, politicians, civil society leaders and religious authority figure at a number of UNESCO events and on a range of themes including, The role of interfaith harmony in the rapprochement of cultures and nations; The importance of fostering and strengthening intercultural dialogue and understanding at the international, regional and national levels; and How does culture drive and enable social cohesion and inclusion.
He has made keynote addresses at the launch of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures in a UNESCO International Forum held in Kazakhstan, in 2013; at the UNESCO International Congress of May 2013 in China where he spoke about Culture: Key to Sustainable Development; and at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia in December 2013 to mark the launch of the UNESCO forum on Building Knowledge Societies for Sustainable Human Development. In January 2015, he addressed dignitaries and journalists on Intercultural Dialogue in Fragmented Societies at the UNESCO headquarters as part of an event organised in the wake of the January 2015 Île-de-France attacks in Paris.
Through his foundations and trusts, Khalili has made many substantial donations to a number of different organisations, institutions, and charities. Donations in the field of education include an endowment of £2.5 million to the University of Oxford. The funds were used for the establishment of the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East, which was opened by the Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten, in July 2005. The Khalili Family Trust’s support continues to the present day, notably with another substantial donation in 2011.
In 1989, Khalili donated £600,000 to establish The Khalili Chair of Islamic Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He also gave a further £200,000 in 2003 for the refurbishment of the lecture theatre at the school. Furthermore, in 1992, he made an endowment of £51,000 to the University of Oxford for a Research Fellowship in Islamic Art.
In the early 1990s, he was solely responsible for securing £10million from H.M. the Sultan of Brunei to build the Brunei Gallery at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. In 2012, he pledged over £1.5million in support of his charity, The Maimonides Interfaith Foundation, in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Maimonides Interfaith Foundation
Khalili founded the charitable Maimonides Interfaith Foundation in 1995 to promote "understanding, cooperation and peace between Jews, Christians and Muslims internationally through art, culture and education". The foundation created the Maimonides Interfaith Explorers, a free online educational resource for children aged 10 to 11.
In the 1990s, Khalili commissioned a series of five paintings by the artist Ben Johnson called the House of Peace to promote "peace and harmony" between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The foundation also donated thousands of copies of The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture (Visions of Splendour) written by Khalili himself, to schools in the United Kingdom and Islamic countries.
He has been awarded many other honours, including Trustee of the City of Jerusalem, and in 2007 the High Sheriff of Greater London Award for his cultural contribution to London. He is Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I (KCFO). He is exceptional in having received Knighthoods from two Popes. Pope John Paul II honoured him as Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Sylvester (KSS) and Pope Benedict XVI further elevated him to Knight Commander in the said order (KCSS) for his work in the pursuit of peace, education and culture amongst nations. In 2012, he was further honoured in this field by UNESCO, as a Goodwill Ambassador/ In 2014, he was the recipient of the Laureate of the Dialogue of Cultures Award at the French National Assembly and consequently in early 2016 he was awarded the Rank of Officier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur by the French president. In 2018 he was appointed to the Honorary Board at the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World .
Honours & awards
- Honorary Fellow, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1991)
- Trustee of the City of Jerusalem (1996)
- Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I (shortened to KCFO) (2003)
- Honorary Degree Doctor of Humane Letters, Boston University (2003)
- Knight of the Equestrian Order of Pope St. Sylvester (shortened to KSS) (2004)
- Honorary Doctor of the University of the Arts, London (2005)
- Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford (2005)
- Member of Chancellor's Court of Benefactors, Oxford (2006)
- High Sheriff of Greater London Award (2007)
- Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester (shortened to KCSS) (2009)
- Queens College, New York President's Award (2010)
- UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador (2012)
- Queens College, New York President's Medal in Recognition of His Outstanding Service to Humanity (2013)
- Aladdin Award for Dialogue Among Cultures at the French Assembly (2014)
- Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa from Professor Gregory Warden Presidend, Franklin University, Switzerland (2015)
- Rank of Officier in the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur, France (2016)
- Member of the Honorary Board, INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World .
In a 2010 interview Khalili said that his collecting in the mid 1980s was funded by his dealings in venture capital, having profited from shares in a company that developed technology to treat tumors, and that he made $15 million from the sale of a company that manufactured indigestion pills in 1987. In 1992, Khalili had described his wealth as deriving from "dealing in art, commodities and real estate". Khalili has said that his collecting was primarily funded by his property investments from 1980.
In 2007 Khalili's wealth was estimated at £5.8 billion by the Sunday Times Rich List, but he was removed from subsequent editions of the list. In 2007 and 2008 Forbes estimated Khalili's wealth at $1.3 billion, but he dropped off the 2014 edition of the list. In 2008 The Art Newspaper wrote that 'a £1 billion valuation is believed more likely' than previously claimed higher amounts. Khalili has claimed that he has spent $650 million on art.
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