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Top 200 Collectors

Black-and-white portrait of an Arab man

Nasser David Khalili


Real estate and investments

Aramaic documents (353–324 B.C.E.); enamels of the world (1700–1900); Hajj and the arts of pilgrimage (700–2000); Islamic art; Japanese art of the Meiji period; Japanese kimonos (1700–2000); Spanish damascene metalworks (1850–1900); Swedish textiles (1700–1900)


“From the age of seven I had the passion to collect and I always believed that if you are born as a collector, you will die as a collector,” Nasser David Khalili told ARTnews. A former art art dealer, the British-Iranian collector and philanthropist has been acquiring art (through the Khalili Family Trust) for more than four decades in eight very specialized areas, among them art of the Islamic lands (700–2000), Aramaic documents (535–324 B.C.), and Swedish textiles (1700–1900).

In total, the collection includes more than 28,000 objects and spans more than 2,500 years of history. A brief and incomplete inventory of just its holdings from Islamic lands would mention illustrated manuscripts of the Qur’an, album paintings, book-bindings, ceramics, metalwork, scientific instruments, armor, jewelry, and carpets. Selections from these collections have been exhibited in more than 40 major institutions worldwide, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Somerset House, and the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.

The bulk of his holdings are kept in storage in London and Geneva. “The word ‘collector’ nowadays is being used very loosely and I believe that a true collector must not only collect but conserve, research, publish, and exhibit his collection,” Khalili said. Beyond collection, his interests are myriad. He serves as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, owns real estate throughout London, and is described on his personal website as “a leading voice in the global movement to advance mutual respect and understanding among the people and nations of the world,” which is a key focus of his philanthropy.