Upcoming Traveling Exhibition: Doris Duke’s Shangri La

Doris Duke. Photo by Martin Munkásci, 1939. Shangri La Historical Archives, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

For the past two years, staff and consultants in Hawai‘i and New York been working hard to plan and organize a major traveling exhibition, Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape and Islamic Art. The exhibition will open at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York on September 7, 2012, and will then travel to five museums and galleries on the continental United States before returning to the Honolulu Museum of Art in March 2015.  It’s the first major exhibition about Shangri La to be shown outside Hawai‘i, and we’re very excited to share the story of Duke’s transformative engagement with the Islamic world and her work at Shangri La with national audiences.

Organized by guest curators Donald Albrecht, curator of design for the Museum of the City of New York and Thomas Mellins, architectural historian, with extensive support from DDFIA staff, the exhibition explores the synthesis of 1930s modernist architecture, tropical landscape and Islamic art that Duke achieved at Shangri La. The exhibit features large-scale, newly commissioned photographs by noted architectural photographer Tim Street-Porter that give visitors the “feel” of the site; archival materials that document the construction and evolution of Shangri La; and a selection of more than 60 objects of Islamic art from the collection.

The Playhouse at Shangri La, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. © Tim Street-Porter 2011. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

Six of Shangri La’s past artists in residence have even created new work for the exhibition. The artists’ contributions, which reflect their responses to Shangri La, will include

  • giant, vivid projections by Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969 in Pakistan, lives and works in New York) that capture the paradox of Shangri La, a place created by an American woman and filled with items from many Muslim countries;

    Unseen 3, Shahzia Sikander, HD-Digital Projection, 2011. Photo by David Adams.

  • lantern-like metal sculptures in the shape of missiles and rockets, evoking a sense of both violence and opulence, by Afruz Amighi (b. 1974 in Iran, lives and works in New York);
  • a video installation by Emre Hüner (b. 1977 in Turkey, lives and works in Berlin and Istanbul) capturing the hidden details of Shangri La, past and present;
  • calligraphic works by Mohamed Zakariya (b. 1942 in the U.S., lives and works in Arlington, Virginia) inspired by the physical landscape of Shangri La and its setting on the ocean;
  • poems by Zakariya Amataya (b. 1975 in Thailand, lives and works in Bangkok) reflecting the influences of both Southeast Asian Muslim culture and American Beat poetry;
  • conceptual art by Walid Raad (b. 1967 in Lebanon, lives and works in New York) exploring the shadows and reflections of Islamic art.

Tile panel, Turkey, possibly Istanbul, ca. 1650. (48.43) © 2003 David Franzen. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i.

We’ve got just seven weeks until the opening of the exhibit, and staff and consultants are extremely busy finalizing conservation work, writing condition reports, making mounts to support the objects on exhibition, reviewing and finalizing label copy, selecting archival images, etc.  Packing and shipping are right around the corner, and installation at the Museum of Arts and Design will take place during the last two weeks of August.

Exhibition guest curators Donald Albrecht and Tom Mellins have also edited an accompanying 216-page book, Doris Duke’s Shangri La: A House in Paradise, to be published in September 2012 by Skira/Rizzoli. The book features a portfolio of photographs by Tim Street-Porter and essays by Linda Komaroff (curator of Islamic art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art) about Duke’s collecting in the greater context of Islamic art collections in the United States; by Keelan Overton (curator of Islamic art, Shangri La) about the work Duke commissioned for Shangri La; by Sharon Littlefield (former curator, Shangri La) about the relationship of the collection to the architecture; and by the editors about Shangri La’s design and construction.

Below is the full tour schedule. Please drop us a line if you get a chance to see the exhibition. We’d love to hear what you think!

 

  • Museum of Arts and Design, NY (September 7, 2012–February 17, 2013);
  • Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL (March 16–July 15, 2013);
  • Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, NC (August 29, 2013–January 5, 2014);
  • University of Michigan Museum of Art, MI (January 25–May 4, 2014);
  • Nevada Museum of Art, NV (May 31–September 7, 2014);
  • Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, CA (October 23–December 28, 2014);
  • Honolulu Museum of Art, HI (March 4–July 5, 2015).
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