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Nasher Museum Presents Doris Duke's Shangri La
Durham, NC - Heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke built Shangri La, a sprawling, oceanfront estate in Honolulu, in the 1930s. She spent the next five decades perfecting the details of her home as a showcase for Islamic art.
An exhibition exploring the collector and her world, "Doris Duke's Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art," opens at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University on Thursday, Aug. 29.
"Doris Duke was ahead of her time, with an eye for art that was not well known in the Western world," said Sarah Schroth, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum. "She built a magnificent, far-away estate, transforming walls, ceilings, doorways, entire rooms with art and architectural details imported from the Islamic world. Before, you had to travel to Honolulu to see it; this exhibition brings Shangri La and its dazzling collection to us."
Doris Duke began collecting Islamic art during a 10-month honeymoon trip around the world in 1935. She hand-picked Islamic textiles, ceramics, paintings, jewelry, furniture, architectural elements, all for Shangri La. The objects came from Egypt, India, Iran, Morocco, Spain, Syria, Turkey and Uzbekistan, dating from as early as the first millennium B.C., but mostly created between the 10th and 20th centuries. Architectural elements from 18th- and 19th-century Damascus residences were shipped and reinstalled with new components to create the Syrian Room at Shangri La.
The 60 works in the exhibition are on view in North Carolina for the first time.
"Doris Duke's Shangri La" is organized in six galleries to invoke the rooms of a home, placing the works of art within the context of Doris Duke's modernist palace. Architectural drawings, large-scale color photographs of the estate and an architectural model, as well as photographs and videos of Shangri La during its construction in the 1930s, are also on view to help tell the story.
The exhibition also includes works by eight contemporary artists invited for residencies at Shangri La.
Doris Duke was born in 1912, the only child of James Buchanan Duke and Nanaline Holt Inman. "Buck" (as Doris' father was called), along with his brother Benjamin and father, Washington Duke (for whom the university is named), founded the American Tobacco Company, and, in partnership with Ben Duke and their associates, founded what is now Duke Energy. He died in 1925 when Doris Duke was 12 years old, leaving his daughter about $80 million to be parceled out during her lifetime, beginning on her 21st birthday.
In addition to purchasing Islamic art, Doris Duke supported a wide range of causes, including medical research, architectural conservation and preservation, wildlife protection and child abuse prevention. Doris Duke died in 1993, at the age of 80, with a net worth of nearly $1 billion.
In accordance with her will, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art was established in 1998 to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures. The foundation is in charge of the management and preservation of Shangri La, which is used for educational programs and is open to the public. As part of its mission, Shangri La hosts contemporary artists and scholars researching Islamic art.
Free programs that complement the Nasher exhibition include a panel discussion on Islamic art, religion and history Sept. 26; a free Eid al-Adha celebration and artist talk by calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya Oct. 17; the annual Semans Lecture by Massumeh Farhad, chief curator and curator of Islamic art at the Smithsonianâs Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Oct. 24; an artist talk by Shahzia Sikander Nov. 14; an "Art with the Experts" talk at the Southwest branch of Durham County Library; Family Day events; K-12 teacher workshops; films, book discussions and more. Iranian-born Kayhan Kalhor, master of Persian music, will give a ticketed performance Nov. 21, co-sponsored by Duke Performances.
A related installation, "Doris Duke: A Life Well Traveled," opens Oct. 19 in the museum's Education Gallery, including photographs and documents from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University's Doris Duke archives. It will be on view through Feb. 2, 2014.
"Doris Duke's Shangri La" is organized by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which is also providing support for its presentation at the Nasher Museum and national tour. Additional support for the exhibition's presentation is provided by an anonymous donor, Graduate Liberal Studies at Duke University, and the Duke Islamic Studies Center.
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The Nasher Museum, at 2001 Campus Drive at Anderson Street on the Duke campus, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for non-Duke students with identification, $4 for seniors, free to members of the Duke Alumni Association with I.D. card and free for children 15 and younger. Admission is free to all on Thursday nights. Admission is free to Duke students, faculty and staff with Duke ID cards, and to Duke Alumni Association members with card. Admission is also free to Nasher Museum members.
Additional information is available at nasher.duke.edu/shangrila.
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