Nasser Khalili

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Nasser Khalili
David portrait.jpg
Native name ناصر داوود خلیلی
Born (1945-12-18) 18 December 1945 (age 70)
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 (Persian: ناصر داوود خلیلی‎‎, born 18 December 1945 in Esfahan) is a British-Iranian renowned scholar, collector and philanthropist based in London. He holds British citizenship.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

After completing his schooling and national service in Iran, Khalili moved to the United States of America in 1967, where he continued his education. In 1974, he graduated at Queens College, City University of New York with a BS degree in computer science. In 1978 he settled in the United Kingdom. Khalili received a PhD degree in Islamic lacquer from the University of London in 1988.

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
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, 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.

Philanthropic work[edit]

Through his foundations and trusts, Khalili has made many substantial donations to a number of different organisations, institutions and charities. They include donations in the field of education, most notably, an endowment of £2.5 million to the University of Oxford [5] for the establishment of the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East,[6] 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, and gave a further £200,000 in 2003 for the refurbishment of the lecture theatre there. He also made an endowment of £51,000 in 1992 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 celebration of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Khalili has donated over £1.5million so far to The Maimonides Interfaith Foundation for its educational project.

Honours & awards[edit]

Key Lectures[edit]

  • 2015 Class of 2015 Franklin university commencement ceremony
  • 2015 Corpus Christi College, Oxford - “The Art of Collecting”
  • 2015 UNESCO Day of Reflection on Intercultural Dialogue and Fragmented Societies Paris, France - “The Real Weapon of Mass Destruction is Ignorance”
  • 2014 Euro-Mediterranean meeting of Projet Aladin - Dialogue Among Cultures Award 2014 Acceptance Speech, Paris, France
  • 2014 ‘Institut Francais’ London - “The Art of Collecting”
  • 2013 Launch of the UNESCO forum on Building Knowledge Societies for Sustainable Human Development, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia - “Knowledge to harness human development and peace”
  • 2013 Launch of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013 – 2022)
  • 2013 UNESCO International Forum, Astana, Kazakhstan – “Art and Culture and their role in fostering understanding”
  • 2013 UNESCO International Congress, Hangzhou, China – “Culture: Key to Sustainable Development”
  • 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 [2][edit]

An audience with His Hollines Pope Francis, to explain the activities of the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation – December 2013
The Maimonides Interfaith Foundation in 60 Seconds

The Maimonides Interfaith Foundation is a dynamic, influential international charity promoting understanding and respect between people from the three Abrahamic faiths through the power of creativity intercultural dialogue and education. One of the greatest challenges facing the world today is how to effectively promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue between adherents of major world religions in ways that create common ground.

Formerly known as the Maimonides Foundation, it was founded by Khalil in 1995 and among its supporters are the world’s leading religious leaders and other prominent figures including HRH the Duke of York, [[HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan]], His Excellency Ban Ki Moon, the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, world-renowned scholar of religions Karen Armstrong FRSL and His Holiness Pope Francis.

Cementing understanding and respect between people from Judaism, Christianity and Islam through highlighting common heritage and shared beliefs has been a lifelong commitment of Khalili and through his work, the Foundation is positioned as a pioneer in its field. It has been at the forefront of interreligious dialogue and the pursuit of peace, education and culture amongst nations. Projects include:

Interfaith Explorer video

Maimonides Interfaith Explorers

In 2012, the Foundation launched Maimonides Interfaith Explorers a free online primary educational learning resource supported by UNESCO. Offering a stimulating cross-curricula programme of study and resources for 10 – 11year old pupils worldwide, it is designed to add value to religious education and citizenship teaching as well as help children learn and respect religious and cultural diversity. Developed with the help of leading educational specialists, and wholly funded by The D. Khalili Charitable Settlement, Interfaith Explorers helps children to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. Khalili recognises that tensions existing in the world today are the result of ignorance and lack of understanding. If ignorance is the problem, then education must be the answer.

Panorama of Jerusalem - House of Peace

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. 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.

Vision Of Splendour Publication

In 2005, at the launch of his latest book, The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture (Vision Of Splendour), at The Banqueting House in Whitehall, he promised, in the presence of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to the Department for Education and Skills, Lord Adonis and other dignitaries, including Ambassadors from Muslim and non-Muslim countries, that he would make a gift of 20,000 copies of his book in English and 20,000 copies in Arabic to schools in the UK, the Muslim World and the Palestinian Territories. 2009 saw the completion of this work under the auspices of the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation.


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,[7] 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).[7] 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.[7] In 2012, he was further honoured in this field by UNESCO, as a Goodwill Ambassador/[8] In 2014 he was the recipient of the dialogue of cultures award in the French assembly.

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador[edit]

Khalili designated as a goodwill Ambassador by The Director General of UNESCO Ms. Irina Bokova

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 world-renowned scholar, collector and philanthropist. He helps galvanize public interest and support for the purposes and principles of UNESCO to significant audiences, including decision makers. He has addressed high-level dignitaries, politicians, civil society leaders and religious authority figures 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 (2013 – 2022) in August 2013, at the UNESCO International Forum in Kazakhstan; at the UNESCO International Congress in 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 [3] in December 2013 to mark the launch of the UNESCO forum on Building Knowledge Societies for Sustainable Human Development. Most recently, in January 2015, he addressed dignitaries and journalists on Intercultural Dialogue in Fragmented Societies at the UNESCO headquarters at an event organised in the wake of the attacks in Paris.

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. 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 Baroness Thatcher and 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.[9]

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)

Business Ventures[edit]

18 – 19 Kensington Palace Gardens

18–19 Kensington palace gardens, London
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

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' .

RK Leisure

Under the umbrella of Favermead Ltd, Khalili’s three sons, Daniel Benjamin and Raphael own and manage a leisure company named RK Leisure. RK leisure owns 11 different lakes in Windsor and Surrey, covering over 500 acres of land, all a short 30 minutes drive from Central London and 10 minutes from Heathrow Airport. These lakes include many leisure activities such as fishing and sailing. Khalili’s three sons are constantly developing other aspects of the lakes for the welfare of its members and the area in general. Formed from mature Gravel Pits, each of the lakes are immaculately maintained to offer well stocked waters, excellent facilities including lodges, toilets and shower blocks, convenient parking and easy access. RK Leisure are proud to own some of the best fisheries in Europe. Many of the lakes are iconic such as Wraysbury 1 and 2 covering 310 acres. Wraysbury 1 held the British Carp and tench record in 1992. Wraysbury is also where the signing of the Magna Carta took place and was also mentioned in 1215 ad in the Doomsday book, and also where King Henry VIII wooed Anne Boleyn. Other complexes include Jones Pit (35 acres) in Milton Keynes and The Horton Lakes (6 different lakes), home to some of the largest British Wels catfish at well over 95 Ibs in weight. Horton is a 160-acre site and is constantly referred to as ‘The Home of British Carp’


External links[edit]