Professor Nasser D Khalili and The Khalili Collections
Professor Nasser D Khalili, who was born in Iran in 1945, is a scholar, collector and benefactor of international standing. After completing his schooling and national service, he left in 1967 for the USA where he continued his education. In 1978 he settled in the United Kingdom.
Since 1970 he has assembled, under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, a number of impressive art collections in a broad range of fields. In addition to the comprehensive collection of the arts of the Islamic world, there are collections of Japanese art of the Meiji period (1868-1912), of Indian and Swedish textiles, and of Spanish damascened metalwork. Combined, The Khalili Collections comprise some 25,000 objects and these are now being researched and presented to the public in a series of publications, published by The Khalili Family Trust, and exhibitions worldwide.
The Islamic collection of over 20,000 items is being presented in an important 27-volume series, of which 16 are now published, and when complete will form a unique survey of the field. Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Collection of Nasser D. Khalili was the first exhibition to draw on the Islamic collection. It has been exhibited at the Museé Rath in Geneva in 1995, the Brunei Gallery in London in 1996, and at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 1996-7. The exhibition recently completed an extensive four-year tour of the USA, and was shown in 13 museums including the Portland Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and the Milwaukee Art Museum, culminating at the Frick Art Museum, Pittsburgh, in February 2004. These exhibitions attracted over 300,000 visitors. In addition, loans from the collection have featured in exhibitions in major museums all over the world, including The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The Japanese collection of some 1,700 pieces has been published in a 9-volume series entitled Meiji No Takara: Treasures of Imperial Japan . In 1994-5 a selection of works entitled Japanese Imperial Craftsmen: Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection was exhibited at the British Museum while ceramics from this collection were shown at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, at an exhibition opened by HRH The Prince of Wales. The programme continued with exhibitions devoted to the lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin at the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, in 1997, the Mishima Taisha shrine and Toyama Sato Art Museum in Japan in 1998 and 1999, and at the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany, in 2000. Some 400 masterpieces of Meiji art were exhibited in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1999 and at the Portland Art Museum, Oregon, in 2002, and a selection will be shown at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2004/5.
The collection of Swedish flatweaves was published in a single volume in 1996 and this publication was celebrated with an exhibition in Malmö, Sweden, in that year. The collection was subsequently shown at the Swedish Cultural Institute in Paris in 2000 and is currently on view at Boston University, USA. The collection of Spanish damascened metalwork has also been published in a single volume and has been exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in 1997-8 and in Spain at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, the Alhambra Palace in Granada, and the Real Fundación in Toledo in 2000 and 2001.
Nasser D Khalili is a frequent lecturer in the four areas of his interest. He has made notable contributions to the scholarship of Islamic art, having endowed in 1990, under the auspices of The Khalili Family Trust, the Nasser D Khalili Chair of Islamic Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, the first chair devoted to the decorative arts of Islam to be founded at any university. He has also supported a research fellowship in Islamic Art at the University of Oxford. More recently The Khalili Family Trust has made a significant endowment to the University of Oxford to establish and support The Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East which will open in 2005. Prof Khalili is a graduate, Associate Research Professor, and Member of the Governing Body at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Honorary Fellow of the University of London. He was appointed to the International Board of Overseers at Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, in 1997 and in May 2003 received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from Boston University, being elected to the Board of Trustees of Boston University in October 2003.
Professor Khalili is a longstanding and committed believer in the vital contributions of inter-faith understanding to the creation of a cohesive society. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, which promotes peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims. He was one of the founders of the Iran Heritage Foundation which was established in 1995 to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of Iran. In 1996 he was honoured with the title Trustee of the City of Jerusalem for his pursuit of culture and peace among nations and on 14 November 2003, was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I at Westminster Cathedral in recognition of his inter-faith activities. His Holiness Pope John Paul II granted him an audience at the Vatican in October 2002, when he bestowed on him the Medaglia Pontificia, and in June this year further honoured him by making him a Knight of the Equestrian Order of Pope St Sylvester.