Now that we are reopen to the public following our annual September closure, visitors have the opportunity to visit two new spaces at Shangri La. One, the Moroccan Gallery, has been available to our audience on occasion in the past. The other, our Powder Room Gallery, is a completely fresh space for the public.
These spaces have shifted over the years – from rooms in a private home with infrequent guests, to museum galleries welcoming hundreds of people each week. Even in its role as a private home, Doris Duke frequently altered the layouts and designs of the objects and rooms at Shangri La, adding new artworks, rearranging old favorites, and shifting the furnishings – and functions – of these spaces.
The Moroccan Gallery, for example, was originally the bedroom of Doris Duke’s first husband, James Cromwell. Following their divorce, it became her private study. After the opening of Shangri La as museum in 2002, the room was alternately used as a collections storage space or staff offices, until its renovation into a multipurpose gallery in 2016.
For the Art of Looking exhibition now installed in the Moroccan Gallery, we present a “deep dive” into some highlights from the Shangri La collection. Over the course of the next year, visitors will see a mina’i bowl from Iran, an inlaid hammam (bath) clog from Syria, and a cut-glass ewer from Turkey. The exhibition offers a distinct contrast from the other exhibition spaces at Shangri La. The room is intentionally spare, and focuses on a single object at a time. Who made and used this object? How was it constructed? How did it end up at Shangri La?
The Powder Room Gallery has transformed a previously-unavailable museum space into a manuscripts gallery. With its uniquely low light levels, this space provides an opportunity to showcase light-sensitive – and therefore rarely seen – manuscripts (books) and folios (single pages) from Shangri La’s unique collection of Islamic art.
Over the course of the year, visitors will be able to enjoy here a rotating selection of folios from one of our copies of the Shahnameh, the Persian “Book of Kings”. For the first installment of this exhibition, visitors are treated to scenes from the life of Rustam, the greatest hero of this sweeping epic. Celebrated for his slaying of dragons, demons, and mad beasts – and easy to identify in works of art, as he is often wearing his babr-e bayan (tiger or leopard skin suit) – Rustam is a true superhero of the Persian world.