The Art Newspaper

Number 305, October 2018
Matthew Paton

Oliver Hoare was arguably the most influential dealer in the Islamic art world, and one who broke the mould. An exotic character with legendary levels of wit, charm and knowledge, he also had an insatiable thirst for fun and adventure and a magical spirit which dared to pursue the improbable. This was perhaps most apparent with his achievement of one of the most unlikely deals of the 20th century: negotiating with the rulers of Iran the exchange of the 16th century ‘Houghton Shahnameh’ for a painting by Willem de Kooning.

Oliver Hoare’s exotic streak is perhaps unsurprising: he was born in 1945 to a Russian mother and an English father who had met in Istanbul. After being sent to Eton, he studied at the Sorbonne’s Institut d’Art et d’Archaeologie, playing guitar in the city’s cafés at night and meeting many of the colourful characters living in 1960s Paris. He had been fascinated with Persia since childhood, his father having gifted him some ancient coins, and he would travel there from France every summer holiday of his university years, a journey which took over a week by bus and train.

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