Oliver Hoare
Art dealer Oliver Hoare, who set up the first Islamic art department of any major auction house in the early 1970s at Christie's

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The dealer, a leading figure in the Islamic antiquities world, died on August 23 at home surrounded by his family.

After developing a fascination with the East as a child, Hoare studied art history at the Sorbonne. He joined Christie’s in 1967 aged 22 and set up the first Islamic art department of any major auction house.

In 1975, he co-founded the Ahuan Gallery, specialising in Islamic art, and helped build the collection of Sheikh Nasser al-Sabah for the Kuwait National Museum.

Royal connections

He counted other Middle-Eastern royalty among his clients, including the late Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar. During the 1990s, Hoare acted as adviser to the Sheikh and his cousin, the Emir, as they set about building Qatar as an important centre of Islamic art and culture.  

Perhaps his best-known deal was the exchange, in 1994 on behalf of the Iranian government, of the Willem de Kooning painting Woman III for the ‘Houghton’ Shahnameh (Book of the Kings), a set of 16th century miniatures illustrating the 11th century Persian epic poem.

Kjeld v Folsach, museum director of the David Collection, said Hoare was “the Islamic art world’s most influential art dealers – if not the most influential – until he passed away.

“I can hardly think of any important collection - public as well as private - where he hasn’t been involved at some point, and in some cases he has been the major formative force.”

Folsach added: “An evening spent in Oliver’s company was never boring but highly enjoyable and inspiring. Luckily for me I had many them over the years, and as the objects he sold to our museum, these evenings can be compared to pearls on a string.”

Recent years

In recent years, Hoare held three exhibitions entitled Every Object Tells a Story, showing works of art from around the world and showcasing his fascination with storytelling.

One of Hoare’s last projects was cataloguing some 200 rare works of art, illustrating the diverse cultures nurtured by the Silk Road.

Damian Hoare, Oliver’s son, worked at his father’s dealership in Cromwell Place, London SW7 and will continue the business. 

Hoare's three children made the following comment to ATG: “We count ourselves extremely fortunate to have grown up with such a wonderful father whose knowledge and appreciation of such diverse interests will remain an inspiration.”

An obituary will follow in a later print edition of ATG and a memorial is currently being planned, details yet to be announced.

With thanks to writer and Asian art collector Barbara Harding for her help with this article.