Nasser Khalili

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Nasser David Khalili
David portrait.jpg
Native name ناصر داوود خلیلی
Born (1945-12-18) 18 December 1945 (age 69)
Isfahan, Iran
Residence London, England
Ethnicity Persian Jewish[1]
Occupation Scholar
art collector
Religion Judaism[1]
Spouse(s) Marion Easton[1]
Children Daniel

Khalili Family Trust

Nasser D Khalili website

Nasser David Khalili, KCSS, KCFO, PhD (Persian: ناصر داوود خلیلی‎, born 18 December 1945 in Esfahan) is a British-Iranian renowned scholar, collector and philanthropist based in London. He holds United Kingdom citizenship.[2] Khalili has often been called the "cultural ambassador of Islam" by leaders of Muslim countries. After completing his schooling and national service in Iran he moved to the United States of America in 1967, where he continued his education. In 1978 he settled in the United Kingdom.

Professor Khalili (right) with President Bill Clinton in 2004 during a private tour of the exhibition Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands at Somerset House
Professor Khalili with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in 2008 during the opening of the exhibition Arts of Islam:Treasures from the Nasser D Khalili Collection


Since 1970 Professor Khalili has assembled, under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust, eight of the world's finest and most comprehensive art collections: Islamic Art (700–2000), Hajj and the arts of pilgrimage (700–2000), Aramaic documents (535-324 BC),Japanese Art of the Meiji Period (1868–1912),Japanese Kimono (1700–2000),Swedish Textiles (1700–1900),Spanish Damascened Metalwork (1850–1900) and Enamels of the World (1700–2000). Together, the eight collections comprise some 25,000 works. Each of the eight collections is on its own merit the largest and most comprehensive in the world.[3] His Islamic art collection extends to 20,000 items and is the largest of its kind held privately in the world.[4]

The Khalili Collections will be fully represented in a series of 88 books, including exhibitions catalogues of which 70 have already been published. These eight collections have been shown in over 40 major museums worldwide. Furthermore, The Khalili collections have also been major contributors to more than 50 international exhibitions. Selections from the eight collections have been exhibited in museums 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, USA); and the Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), amongst many others. "The Arts of Islam. Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection" was shown in 2007 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, (Sydney), in 2008 at the Emirates Palace (Abu Dhabi), in 2009 at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris), and in 2010 at De Nieuwe Kerk International Exhibition Centre (Amsterdam). "Enamels of the World 1700–2000" opened at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg in December 2009.


Professor Khalili is a frequent lecturer. He has also made notable contributions to the scholarship of Islamic art, having endowed in 1989, the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London,[2] the first of its kind on the world devoted to the decorative arts of Islam. Professor Khalili is a graduate, Associate Research Professor and Honorary Fellow of the University of London. He is Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College, and member of the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors, University of Oxford. He has also supported a research fellowship in Islamic art at the University of Oxford. The Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East at the University of Oxford was opened in 2005 by the Chancellor, Lord Patten, thanks to the significant endowment of the Khalili Family Trust, whose sustaining support continues to the present day, notably with an additional substantial donation in 2011.[5][6] He was appointed to the International Board of Overseers at Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA in 1997, and in 2003 received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from Boston University, also in Massachusetts.

In May 2005, he also received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts London. In early 2011, The Trust endowed The Nasser D. Khalili Visiting Professorship in Islamic studies at Queens College, City University of New York, where he graduated in the early 1970s.

Honours & awards[edit]

Key Lectures[edit]

  • 2013 Class of 2013 Queens College commencement ceremony
  • 2012 High-Level Debate "Contemporary Challenges and Approaches to Building a Lasting Culture of peace" –UNESCO International Day of Peace at the United Nations New York
  • 2011 Passion for Perfection: Islamic Art from the Khalili Collection – De Nieuwe Kerk, Dam Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2008 HRH Mohammed Bin Zayed, Majlis, Al Butten Palace, Abu Dhabi –“A glorious Tradition: Islamic Art through the Ages”
  • 2007 Queens College New York – “The Art Of The Possible: Bridging Cultural Divides”
  • 2005 Queens College New York – “Art and Culture of Islam and its contribution to the West”
  • 2004 Roscoe Lecture at Liverpool Cathedral – “The Art of Islam: a Glorious Tradition”
  • 2001 School of Oriental and African Studies, London – “The Art of Collecting”
  • 2001 Portland Art Museum, USA – “The Art of Meiji”
  • 2000 Bilbao, Spain – “Spanish Damascene from The Khalili Collection”
  • 1999 Wilmington, Delaware, USA – “Splendors of Meiji: Treasures of Imperial Japan”
  • 1999 Tel Aviv Museum, Israel – “Indian Miniatures”
  • 1996 Malmö, Sweden – “Swedish Textile Art”
  • 1996 Israel Museum, Jerusalem – “Empire of the Sultans”
  • 1995 Victoria & Albert Museum, London – “Islamic Art through the Centuries” (under the auspices of The Board of Deputies of British Jews to mark the First Anniversary of the Israel–Jordan Peace Treaty)
  • 1995 Musées d’art et d’histoire de Genève, Switzerland – “The Art and History of Islam”
  • 1992 Islamic Seminar in Kuching, Malaysia – “Art of Islam”

Maimonides Interfaith foundation[edit]

An audience with His Hollines Pope Francis, to explain the activities of the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation – December 2013

In 1995 Professor Khalili founded the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation[7] a charity which promotes peace and understanding between the three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As chairman of the foundation he is leading a major education project for all primary schools in England and Wales: Maimonides Interfaith Explorers[8] which is solely funded by the D. Khalili Charitable Settlement. It was launched at the Central London Mosque in the presence of its patrons HRH The Duke of York and HE The Ambassador of the UAE representing HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development, to coincide with the celebrations of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Senior politicians and religious leaders representing the monotheistic Faiths were also present.

House Of Peace It has always been Khalili's dream to see peace and harmony between the three great monotheistic faiths become reality and since 1995 he has been working on a project that reflects his belief in the importance of combining art with interfaith understanding. He commissioned five large paintings from the artist [Ben Johnson] which, together, create a Vision of Peace between the three faiths. The first four include a panorama of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Christian Quarter and the Dome of the Rock. The fifth painting, designed by Khalili himself, depicts a Circle of Peace, a kaleidoscope of the word "peace" in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The circle centres on the eternal light surrounded by the name of the Almighty in the same three languages. He hopes that by exhibiting this 'House of Peace' around the world it might, in some small way, bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians and show them that there is far more that unites them than divides them.

Panorama of Jerusalem - House of Peace


Professor Khalili designated as a goodwill Ambassador by The Director General of UNESCO Ms. Irina Bokova
Visit to The Vatican with Pope John Paul II on the occasion of honouring Prof. Khalili as Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Sylvester (KSS) 2005

He has been awarded many other honours, including Trustee of the City of Jerusalem,[9] 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).[9] He is exceptional in having received Knighthoods from two Popes. His Holiness the late Pope John Paul II honoured him as Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Sylvester (KSS) and His Holiness 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.[9] In 2012, he was further honoured in this field by UNESCO, as a Goodwill Ambassador/[10] In 2014 he was the recipient of the dialogue of cultures award in the French assembly.

List of Publications to the eight collections[edit]

On the occasion of the UNESCO High Panel on Peace and Dialogue Among Cultures, 19 November 2012, UNESCO headquarters, Paris From left to right Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Professor Nasser D Khalili, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, Chairman, board of directors, King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies
HRH The Prince of Wales at the opening of Treasures of Imperial Japan, Ceramics from the Khalili Collection National Museum of Wales, Cardiff – 1994
With Lord Patten when appointed as a member of The Chancellor's Court of Benefactors, University of Oxford – October 2006
The Right Honourable Baroness Thatcher and Professor Khalili on the occasion of their being awarded Knight Commander of the Royal Order of St Francis I (KCFO) at Westminster Cathedral 2003
Receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Boston University – 2003
Receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts London – May 2005
With Prof. Mikhail Piotrovsky Director of the State Hermitage Museum – Saint Petersburg on the occasion of opening the exhibition: Enamels of the World: 1700 – 2000 – Dec 2009
With Lord Adonis at The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture Book Launch – 2005

His collections are among the most important held in private hands and among the best documented. Details of every major piece he has collected have either been published or are planned for publication.[11]

1. List of Publications to The Khalili Collections of Islamic Art (700–2000)

Studies in The Khalili Collection – Academic Monographs

2. List of Publications to The Khalili Collections of Hajj and the arts of pilgrimage(700–2000)

3. List of Publications to The Khalili Collections of Aramaic Documents (400 BC – AD 700)

4. List of Publications to The Khalili Collections of Japanese Art of the Meiji Period (1868–1912)

5. List of Publications to The Khalili Collection of Japanese Kimono (1700–2000)

6. List of Publications to The Khalili Collection of Swedish Textile Art

7. List of Publications to The Khalili Collection of Spanish Damascene Metalwork

8. List of Publications to The Khalili Collection of Enamels of the World

List of Exhibition Catalogues[edit]

Islamic Art (700–2000)

Enamels of the world (1700 – 2000)

Japanese Art of the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912)

International Exhibitions[edit]

Entirely comprising objects from The Khalili Collections

The Khalili Collection of Islamic Art

Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection

The Khalili Collection of Japanese Art

The Khalili Collection of Spanish Damascene Metalwork

The Khalili Collection of Swedish Textiles

The Khalili Collection of Enamels of the World (1700–2000)

Loans to International Museums and Galleries[edit]

  • Jan – April 1992 Jüdische Lebenswelten, Berliner Festspiele GmbH, Berlin, Germany
  • Nov 1993 – Mar 1994 Worlds Beyond. Death and Afterlife in Art, Cartwright Hall, Bradford
  • Oct– Nov 1997 The Quick and the Dead. Artists and Anatomy, A National Touring Exhibition organised by the Hayward Gallery for the Arts Council
  • Oct – Nov 1997 Royal College of Art, London (a multi-cultural exhibition)
  • June – Sep 1998 Corps à vif. Art et anatomie, Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva
  • Oct 1998 – Jan 1999 Royal Persian Paintings. The Qajar Epoch 1785–1925, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City
  • Feb – May 1999 Armand Hammer Museum of Art, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
  • July– Sep 1999 Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Nov 1999 – Feb 2000 Oracle – Looking into the Future, Museum Rietberg, Zürich
  • Dec 1999 – April 2000 Earthly Beauty. Heavenly Art. The Art of Islam, Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • May – July 2000 Marvels of the East. Indian Paintings of the Mughal Period from the Khalili Collection, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel
  • May – Oct 2000 La Beauté in natura, Avignon, France
  • June 2000 – Sep 2001 Earthly Beauty. Heavenly Art. The Art of Islam, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
  • Sep 2000 – June 2001 Have a Nargileh. Water-pipes from the Islamic World, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
  • Jan – Mar 2001 Court and Conquest. Ottoman Origins and the Design for Handel’s “Tamerlano” at the Glimmerglass Opera, Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London
  • Oct – Dec 2002 Ornements de la Perse. Islamic Patterns in 19th Century Europe Leighton House Museum, London
  • Oct 2001 – April 2002 Pearls: A Natural History, The American Museum of Natural History, New York City
  • Oct 2001 – May 2002 Spirit Of Islam. Experiencing Islam through Calligraphy, Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Oct 2001 – Mar 2002 L’Orient de Saladin au Temps des Ayyubides, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
  • July – Nov 2002 The Nature of Diamonds, Midland Center for the Arts, Midland, Michigan, USA
  • June 2002 – Jan 2003 Pearls: A Natural History, The Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Oct 2002 – Feb 2003 The Legacy Of Genghis Khan. Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
  • Nov 2002 – Mar 2003 Chevaux et cavaliers arabes dans les arts d’orient et d’occident, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, France
  • Nov 2002 – April 2003 The Art of Love. Love’s Lust and Sorrow in World Art, Museum Rietberg, Zürich, Switzerland
  • April – July 2003 The Legacy of Genghis Khan. Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA
  • Oct 2003 – Jan 2004 Hunt for Paradise: Court Art of Safavid Iran, 1501–76 Asia Society and Museum, New York City
  • Feb – June 2004 Hunt for Paradise: Court Art of Safavid Iran, 1501–76, Museo Poldi Pezzoli and Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy
  • March – Aug 2004 Heaven on Earth: Art From Islamic Lands – Selected objects from the Khalili Collection and The State Hermitage Museum, Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House, London
  • Oct – Dec 2004 Asia, Body, Mind, Spirit, Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London
  • Oct 2004 – Jan 2005 Asian Games: The Art of Contest, Asia Society, New York City)
  • Nov 2004 – Mar 2005 The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages, Historisches Museum Der Pfalz, Speyer, Germany
  • Dec 2004 – April 2005 Iraq and China: Ceramics, Trade and Innovation, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. USA
  • Feb – May 2005 Asian Games: The Art of Contest, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., USA
  • April – Aug 2005 The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany
  • Sep – Dec 2005 Asian Games: The Art of Contest, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Vermont, USA
  • Oct 2005 – Mar 2006 L’Age d’or des sciences arabes (‘The Golden Age of Arab Sciences’), Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
  • May – Sept 2006 Ibn Khaldun. The Mediterranean in the XIVth century: The Rise and Fall of the Empires, Real Alcazar, Seville, Spain
  • Sept 2006 – Feb 2007 East-West: Objects Between Cultures, Tate Britain, London
  • Oct 2006 – Feb 2007 Moments of Vision: Venice and the Islamic World c. 1300–1700, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris
  • 5 June – 5 September 2010 Gifts of the Sultan. The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts – Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
  • 11 September 2010 – 9 January 2011 Epic of the Persian Kings. The Art of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh – Mellon Gallery, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
  • 26 October 2010 – 20 March 2011 Al-Mizan: Sciences and Arts in the Islamic World – Museum of the History of Science, Oxford
  • 12 December 2010 – 27 February 2011 India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
  • 6 April – 11 July 2011 Une cour royale en Inde: Lucknow (XVIIIème – XIXème siècle) – Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, Paris
  • 23 October 2011 – 15 January 2012 Gifts of the Sultan. The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
  • January – April 2012 Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam, British Museum, London
  • 19 March – 2 June 2012 Gifts of the Sultan. The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts – Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
  • Sept 2013March 2014 'Longing for Mecca: the journey of the pilgrim', Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden, The Netherlands

Business Ventures[edit]

18 – 19 Kensington Palace Gardens

18–19 Kensington palace gardens, London

Khalili is not only passionate about his art collections. He had long cherished a dream of creating, in the heart of London, a great building that would be a worthy contribution to the heritage of the country in which he had chosen to make his home.

During the 1990s his property company, Favermead Ltd. acquired the leases of two adjacent derelict buildings (former embassies) in Kensington Palace Gardens and obtained unprecedented planning permission from Crown Estate, English Heritage and The Victorian Society to convert them into one. At a cost of over £90 million the project, simply known as 18–19 Kensington Palace Gardens, turned into a restoration project second only in scale, in Britain, to that of Windsor Castle after the disastrous fire of 1992. Khalili's objective was to return the buildings back to their original splendour and by using the original drawings made in 1845 by Sir Charles Barry (architect of the Palace of Westminster) the historic character of the building was preserved. Under the guidance of English Heritage, and working to the strict guidelines of The Crown Estate, all the original features and decorations were carefully restored. For example, all 40 Adam fireplaces were taken away and restored but one had been so badly damaged it was beyond repair. After a year-long search it was replaced with one of the same period and style, which had been discovered in an architectural salvage yard in London. The project took five years to complete and employed more than 400 workers and craftsmen per day. By treating the property like a valued object in his collection, Khalili created one of the finest and most aesthetically stunning palaces in Europe. It is now home to the Mittal's family.

Sixty London A key partnership with Axa Real Estate Investment Managers at 52 – 60 Holborn Viaduct, Central London

In November 2010, Favermead Ltd, Prof. Nasser D. Khalili's property company, entered into a significant partnership with Axa Real Estate Investment Managers to develop a project in the mid-town area of London, in the heart of the legal district.

A complete redevelopment of the property is now underway to provide high specification, sustainable, flexible and ecologically sensitive office space in a most prestigious location.

Prof. Khalili's desire to make a positive contribution to the city of London was interpreted by an award-winning design team within the international firm of architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

This design will enhance the lively and dynamic environment in Holborn Viaduct, which is a principle and much travelled route between the City and the West End.

The simple but stunning organic form of the building will provide a harmonious counterpoint to its urban context. The generous external curves of this monumental structure take their origins from the views and sightlines of its city location and the striking façade of twisted fins over a light glazed curtain wall imparts a strength and modern beauty

Encompassed within this development is a sensitively imagined new Gate House. Sited at the north-east corner of Farringdon Road, this is to be rebuilt using traditional materials, respecting the ethos of existing grand Victorian buildings.

Due for completion in the second quarter of 2013, this bold development of 220,000 sq.ft. comprising luxury offices with car parking, upscale retail and leisure facilities, will qualify under the BREEAM environmental performance assessment method as 'Excellent' .

External links[edit]