The Art of Peace

The Art of Peace


In 1967, Sir David Khalili finished his military service in Iran and travelled to study in the United States with $750 - his remaining royalties from a book he wrote when he was just 14. Over the course of the next five decades he single-handedly, piece by piece, assembled eight of the finest art collections in their field, ultimately becoming one of the world's greatest collectors, about whom Queen Elizabeth II once said: 'It is scary how much this gentleman knows about art.'

For the first time, Sir David shares his extraordinary journey: one that has taken him through the souks of North Africa, the auction houses of Europe and the United States, the bazaars of South Asia, and far beyond. Through a riveting collection of real-life adventures, he reveals his collecting strategy, business ethics and what motivates him to continuously collect, conserve, research, publish and exhibit the treasures in his collections.

Through his story, Sir David questions how the undeniable power of art can be harnessed to foster greater peace and unity worldwide. No one is better placed to enlighten us.


  • A compelling account of the making — and the maker — of an outstanding collection, which has been shared, admired and enjoyed around the world
    Neil MacGregor, author of A History of the World in 100 Objects

About the author

Sir David Khalili

Professor Sir David Nasser Khalili is an Iranian-born British scholar, collector, philanthropist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He received his PhD in Islamic Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where he was also awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 1992. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford, where he is a Member of the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors.

Over his career Sir David has assembled eight of the world’s finest art collections comprising some 35,000 works, each being one of the most comprehensive in its field. including: Enamels of the World, Islamic Art, Hajj and the Arts of Pilgramage, Aramaic Documents, Japaense Art of the Meiji Period, Japanese Kimonos, Swedish Textiles, and Spanish Damascene Metalwork.
Sir David has ensured each work has been meticulously conserved, researched, catalogued, published and digitised by the world’s leading experts as part of what is considered to be one of the most ambitious art scholarship projects in modern history.

Sir David is also a pioneer of cultural philanthropy and cultural diplomacy. He is founder and chairman of the Khalili Foundation, which has supported and driven a number of projects that use the power of art, culture and education to foster peace and unity. Key partners include UNESCO, the Commonwealth, The Prince’s Trust, Aspen Institute and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Sir David’s many honours and awards include Trustee of the City of Jerusalem and the High Sheriff of Greater London Award, as well as Knighthoods from Pope John Paul II and Pope
Benedict XVI. He also received the rank of Officier in the National Order of the Legion of Honour from the French President François Hollande as well as a knighthood in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
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