Authority and collector Khalili to explore glories of Islamic art
By David J. Craig
Islamic religion and culture may be poorly understood in the West, but the intrinsic beauty of Islamic art, with its exquisite use of color and sophisticated balance of design and form, is immediately and universally appealing. And in recent years, Western scholars have begun to seriously study Islamic art in its own context in order to better understand the cultures from which it derives, rather than simply appreciating the art in accordance with Western aesthetics.
The owner of one of the most important Islamic art collections in the
world and a scholar and benefactor of Islamic art of international standing,
Nasser David Khalili will present a lecture entitled The Art of Islam:
A Glorious Tradition, at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, February 10, at the Tsai
Performance Center at 685 Commonwealth Ave. The event is free and open
to the public.
Khalili’s Islamic artwork currently is being presented in a 27-volume series, 16 of which have been published thus far by the Nour Foundation, a nonprofit organization under the auspices of the Khalili Family Trust, in collaboration with Azimuth Editions and Oxford University Press. Among the most impressive pieces in this collection, which represents the entire range of artistic production of Islamic societies between the eighth and early twentieth centuries, are rare Qur’anic manuscripts. These include a Qur’an featuring artwork by the greatest calligrapher of the Middle Ages, Yaqut al-Musta’simi, a Qur’an written in gold from twelfth-century Iraq, and a manuscript that is possibly the oldest Qur’an to survive from India. Because of its association with the Qur’an, calligraphy is one of the most important elements in traditional Islamic art -- of which the decorative arts generally are the most highly developed forms -- and historically calligraphers have been among the most famous artists in Islamic societies.
“Dr. Khalili is a man of obvious rare taste, and his collection of Islamic art is a very important collection, and very wisely collected,” says Herbert Mason, a UNI professor and a CAS professor of history and religion, who has studied Islamic history and art.
Khalili was born in Isfahan, Iran, in 1945, and after completing his schooling and national service, he left Iran in 1967 for the United States, where he continued his education before settling in the United Kingdom in 1978. Also a philanthropist and a successful property developer, he has
Khalili is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies and a member of its governing body, and an honorary fellow of the University of London. In addition, he is the cofounder and chairman of the Maimonides Foundation, which promotes peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims.
As well as its comprehensive Islamic art holdings, the Khalili Collections feature important holdings of Japanese art of the Meiji period (1868 to 1912), of Indian and Swedish textiles, and of Spanish damascened metalwork. All these are now being researched and presented to the public in a series of publications and exhibitions. Ottoman art from the Islamic collection has been exhibited at the Musée Rath in Geneva, the Brunei Gallery in London, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and extensively throughout the United States.