Collector lobbies for museum plan

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The Independent Online
NASSER D KHALILI, who has amassed one of the world's major private collections of Islamic art, held a lavish reception in the Foreign Office last night, as part of his campaign to persuade Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, that the British government should fund a museum to house his collection for 'at least' 15 years.

Dr Khalili used the occasion to reject criticism that he plans to use it as a glamorous dealer's showroom. It has been suggested that he intends to buy and sell the works - which include exceptional examples of metalwork, textiles, jewellery, carvings and rare books and miniatures - in the ordinary course of a dealer's business.

He claimed yesterday that 'the collection is being published in 26 volumes . . . and none of these pieces will be removed from the collection'.

However, seeming to contradict himself, he added that 'de- accessioning in order to enhance the collection may . . . affect objects acquired in the course of the 15-year loan'.

A spokeswoman for Dr Khalili said: 'Fifteen years was a figure used to see how the offer would be received.' She added that negotiations were taking place with the British government.

Dr Khalili, who was born in Iran and has lived in London since 1980, has specified that he would like a central London museum, of between 3,500 and 5,000 square metres, to be named after him. He said that Britain was being given first refusal, but that other countries had expressed interest.

However, a spokesman for the Department of National Heritage said: 'We have not received a formal offer to consider. We're not even thinking about it yet.'

Mr Brooke, who had another engagement last night, was not among more than 400 guests, including 40 ambassadors, who accepted the invitation to the reception. Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, was guest of honour.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said that Lord Young of Graffham, as a former Cabinet minister and chairman of the Nour Foundation (UK) which administers the Khalili collection in Britain, had arranged the event in the department's rooms.

Dr Khalili, who describes himself as a dealer-turned-collector, has quietly built up the collection over the past 20 years. Some 12,000 objects are stored in warehouses around the world.

(Photograph omitted)