The Honolulu Museum of Art presents Doris Duke's Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art February 12 to June 7, 2015. The exhibition showcases objects of Islamic art from the spectacular Honolulu home of philanthropist and art collector Doris Duke (1912-1993) and new works by eight contemporary artists of Islamic background, all of whom have participated in Shangri La's artist in residency program.
The works from Duke's personal collection are being shown outside of Shangri La for the first time, in an exhibition that was organized on the centenary of her birth. After traveling nationally for two years, the show ends its journey in the objects' "home"—Honolulu.
Large-scale, newly commissioned photographs by Tim Street-Porter establish the context of the legendary five-acre property of Shangri La. Open to the public under the auspices of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), Shangri La today maintains a collection of some 2,500 objects. With the estate able to accommodate approximately 20,000 visitors a year, the exhibition Doris Duke's Shangri La is an extraordinary opportunity for thousands more to experience what guest curators Donald Albrecht and Tom Mellins call the "inventive synthesis" of architecture, landscape, and Islamic art that Duke achieved. In addition, the exhibition is a must-see even for those who have visited the Diamond Head property—most of the works in the show are not on view at Shangri La.
Shangri La is also the site of scholar-in-residence and artist-in-residence programs. The contemporary works in Doris Duke's Shangri La, made in a variety of media and reflecting the mix of cultures at Shangri La, are by Ayad Alkadhi (b. 1971 in Iraq, lives and works in New York), Zakariya Amataya (b. 1975 in Thailand, lives and works in Bangkok), Afruz Amighi (b. 1974 in Iran, lives and works in New York), Shezad Dawood (b. 1974 in London, lives and works in London), Emre Hüner (b. 1977 in Turkey, lives and works in Amsterdam and Istanbul), Walid Raad (b. 1967 in Lebanon, lives and works in New York), Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969 in Pakistan, lives and works in New York), and Mohamed Zakariya (b. 1942 in the U.S., lives and works in Arlington, Virginia). These contemporary works reflect each artist's response to Shangri La's hybrid of Islamic tradition and 20th-century modernism.
Situated among five acres of interlocking, terraced gardens and pools overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu's Diamond Head, Shangri La powerfully reflects Duke's aesthetic passions. Seamlessly integrating modern architecture, tropical landscape, and art from places throughout the Islamic world, the home incorporates unique architectural features such as carved marble doorways; decorated screens known asjali in Hindi; gilt and coffered ceilings and floral ceramic tiles. The interiors weave together artifacts such as silk textiles, jewel-toned chandeliers, and rare ceramics, many collected during her 1935 honeymoon around the world.
Duke continued for the rest of her life to commission and acquire new pieces from Muslim regions specifically for Shangri La. The installation reveals the travel and research that led to the creation of Shangri La; the process of its design; the atmosphere of life on the property during the nearly 60 years in which Doris Duke collected, commissioned, and lived amid the art; and the ways in which its beauty and fusion of cultures continue to inspire artists today.
"We're delighted to be exhibiting Shangri La at the Honolulu Museum of Art," says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of Shangri La. "Doris Duke's encounters with the Islamic world were transformative and Shangri La is her paean to the places and traditions she loved—a story told in many voices and from many perspectives in this exhibition and the accompanying book. Duke recognized Shangri La's fluid identity, paying homage to a pan-Islamic world while simultaneously embracing modern style and innovation. Those juxtapositions and paradoxes are the essence of Shangri La.