Professor Nasser D. Khalili KCSS, KCFO is a scholar, collector and benefactor of international standing, 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, five of the world’s finest and most comprehensive art collections: The Arts of the Islamic World (700-1900), Japanese Art of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Swedish Textiles (1700-1900), Spanish Damascened Metalwork (1850-1900) and Enamels of the World (1700-2000). Together, the five collections comprise some 25,000 works.
The Khalili Collections are fully represented in a series of over 40 catalogues, of which 90% have already been published. Once completed, the series will form a unique survey of each field and will be the largest art publication project of any collector to date. Selections from each Collection have been exhibited in over 35 world-class museums, such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the Alhambra Palace in Granada, the Portland Art Museum in the USA and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Key objects have been loaned to more than 40 different museums and institutions, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA to Somerset House London, England. The next two exhibitions will be The Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D Khalili Collection at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, and the Enamels of the World (1700-2000) at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
Nasser 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, 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. The Khalili Family Trust 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 opened in 2005. Nasser Khalili is a graduate, Associate Research Professor and Member of the Governing Body of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and an 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 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, and in 2007 he was given the High Sheriff of London award for his cultural contribution to London.
Nasser Khalili is the co-founder and chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, a charity which promotes peace and understanding between the three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He has been awarded other honours, which include Trustee of the City of Jerusalem, Knight Commander of the Royal Order of St Francis I (KCFO) at Westminster cathedral. 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 pursuit of peace and culture amongst nations.