Doris Duke (1912 –1993), known for her wealth and philanthropy, surprisingly amassed one of the nation’s largest private collections of Islamic art. Perhaps equally surprising is the environment Duke created to house her remarkable collections: Shangri La, a five-acre estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Begun in the mid-1930s and developed over the course of more than 50 years, Shangri La seamlessly melds modern architecture, tropical landscape and art from throughout the Islamic world.
In her will, Duke opened Shangri La’s doors by establishing the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. This exhibition of 60 works of art was the first to allow audiences, beyond those who visit the house, the opportunity to experience Shangri La’s distinctive blend of architecture, landscape and Islamic art. The exhibition included textiles, ceramics, paintings, metalwork, glassware, jewelry and furniture. Eight artists who participated in Shangri La’s artist-in-residence program contributed new work to the exhibition. Architectural drawings and large-scale lightbox photographs gave context to the exhibition.
Doris Duke’s Shangri La was organized by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which also provided support for its presentation at the Nasher Museum and national tour. Additional support for the exhibition’s presentation was provided by an anonymous donor, Graduate Liberal Studies at Duke, and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.
TOP: Iranian (Isfahan), Lunette (detail), 1938-39. Stonepaste: monochrome-glazed, assembled as a mosaic. © 2011, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Photo by David Franzen. BOTTOM (LEFT TO RIGHT): A Duke student examines a blown-glass Iranian rosewater sprinkler from the 18th or 19th century. Assistant Curator Katie Adkins (right), who coordinated Doris Duke’s Shangri La for the Nasher Museum, enjoys a moment with art conservator Ruth Cox at the opening event. Photos by J Caldwell