Georgina Adam does some sleuthing on this week’s Islamic art sales and the tent-pole auction of a “Princely collection” to figure out where it all comes from:
In a big week for Islamic sales in London who is behind the “Princely collection” of “treasures from the Islamic world” that comes up for auction in the first-ever evening sale in this category at Sotheby’s next Wednesday? The 112 objects, from 9th-century manuscripts and a 13th-century Persian tile to 19th-century Indian jewellery are expected to fetch over £4m. Specialists point out that many of the pieces figured in the book 1,400 Years of Islamic Art, and this reference is indeed given in the catalogue entries – but with no mention that the 1981 book was published by Khalili Gallery, the shop owned at the time by David Nasser Khalili, the Jewish-Iranian Islamic art collector. From there it is a hop, skip and a jump to concluding that the vendor is Khalili himself, but this both Sotheby’s and Khalili strenuously deny. Interestingly, some of the lots have double-dagger symbols, indicating they are imported from outside the EU, while others don’t, so the pieces do not all come from the same place.
And who is the unnamed prince? Speculation focuses on Prince Jefri of Brunei, who is a friend of Khalili and rumoured to have bought from him: Khalili also advised the Sultan of Brunei on his collection of Islamic art. Khalili – who is himself a “Prince of Islam” nominated by Saudi Arabia – also denies that Jefri is connected with his family trusts.
The Art Market: Curious, Curious (Financial Times)