Iranian-born Nasser David Khalili has pledged to set up a museum in London to show one of the greatest private collections of Islamic art.
In an interview, he revealed that he is about to start looking for premises, and hopes his museum will be established "in the next five years". Dr Khalili will also provide a multi-million pound endowment for running costs. "It would be one of the finest things one could do in this country-creating a fantastic new museum, the best in the world, without it costing the taxpayer a penny," he explained.
The Khalili Museum will house over 20,000 objects of Islamic art. The manuscripts and miniatures are outstanding, as are the decorative arts, particularly ceramics, textiles, glass and metalwork. The museum will also display his other collections, which include the finest selection of Meiji art outside Japan, Spanish damascene metalwork and Swedish textiles. We can also reveal that Dr Khalili has important Fabergé pieces. The greatest objects from all these collections would be on show, with most of the remainder available to scholars in a study room.
In 1992 Dr Khalili made a proposal to the British government, offering his Islamic collection on a 15-year loan, on the understanding that it would be transformed into a gift if a suitable building were provided. These conditions appeared unacceptable, and he withdrew the offer. Four years later he investigated setting up a museum in Geneva, but this venture ended when it became clear that the Swiss city could not attract sufficient visitors. Now he has returned to the idea of London, and for the first time he has given a time frame for the project. In the meantime Dr Khalili continues to be a generous lender to exhibitions (80 objects from his Islamic collection are currently on show in "Heaven on earth", at London's Somerset House, now extended until 3 October).
Although born in Iran, Dr Khalili left in 1967 and now has joint UK-US citizenship, and an English wife. He is extremely rich, and two years ago sold a house in Kensington Palace Gardens for around £50 million. Dr Khalili has always been coy about his wealth, but he told The Art Newspaper that it came from "property and finance", and that he is associated with a small group of unnamed business colleagues.
His art collection is owned by the Khalili Family Trust. He revealed that its trustees are non-family members, and have business backgrounds, but would say nothing more about them. The Art Newspaper has established that the Khalili Family Trust is registered in Liechtenstein, with its operational office in Zurich. In London, the Islamic collection is managed by an English charity, the Nour Foundation, and the Japanese collection by the Kibo Foundation.
Dr Khalili still collects. "You never stop. If you are born a collector, you die as one," he explained. But he admits that it is more difficult to acquire important Islamic items than when he began, in the 1970s. "Things which surface now usually end up in a museum or institution."
... Payvand News - 7/25/04 ... --