Professor Nasser D. Khalili and the Khalili Collections
Professor Nasser D. Khalili PhD, KCSS, KCFO is a world-renowned scholar, collector and philanthropist, who 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.
Since 1970 he has assembled, under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust, eight of the world’s finest and most comprehensive art collections: The Arts of the Islamic World (700-2000), Japanese Art of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Three Hundred Years of Japanese Kimono (1700-2000), Swedish Textiles (1700-1900), Spanish Damascened Metalwork (1850-1900), Enamels of the World (1700-2000), Aramaic and Bactrian documents (400 BC - AD 700) and hajj and the arts of the pilgrimage. 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.
The Khalili Collections will be fully represented in a series of over 40 volumes, of which the majority have already been published. Selections from each Collection have been exhibited in over 35 museums worldwide, such as the British Museum, the Victoria and 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). "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 Gallery One 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). "The 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 founded in 1989, the Nasser D. Khalili Chair of Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, the first of its kind in the world devoted to the decorative arts of Islam. Professor Khalili is a graduate, Associate Research Professor and an 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. 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. 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.
In 1995 Nasser Khalili founded the Maimonides Foundation 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 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, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, United Arab Emirates, to coincide with the celebrations of HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Senior politicians and religious leaders were also present, representing the monotheistic Faiths.
He has been awarded many other honours, including Trustee of the City of Jerusalem, and in 2007 High Sheriff of London award for his cultural contribution to London. He is Knight Commander of the Royal Order of St Francis I (KCFO). 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 has 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.