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Museum of Arts and Design opens Doris Duke Shangri La. Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art

Museum of Arts and Design in New York City presents Doris Duke’s Shangri La. Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art on view from September 7, 2012 through January 6, 2013, showcasing a selection of objects of Islamic art from the spectacular Honolulu home of philanthropist and art collector Doris Duke (1912-1993) and new works by six contemporary artists of Islamic background who were recently in residence there.

Footed basin, Spain (Valencia, probably Manises) ca. 1500

The works from Duke’s personal collection are being shown outside of Shangri La for the first time in this exhibition, which is being organized on the centenary of her birth and which will travel after it premieres at MAD. Large-scale, newly commissioned photographs by Tim Street-Porter will establish the context of this legendary five-acre property, and a wealth of archival materials will reveal what guest curators Donald Albrecht and Tom Mellins call the “inventive synthesis” of architecture, landscape, and Islamic art that Duke achieved at Shangri La.

Now open to the public under the auspices of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Shangri La today maintains a collection of some 3,500 objects and is also the site of scholar-in-residence and artist-in-residence programs. The new works in the exhibition, made in a variety of media and reflecting the mix of cultures at Shangri La, are by Zakariya Amataya (b. 1975 in Thailand, lives and works in Bangkok), Afruz Amighi (b. 1974 in Iran, lives and works in New York), Emre Hner (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 as jali, 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 extensive international travels 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 will reveal 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.

Shangri La was conceived by the 23-year-old Doris Duke in 1935, after her honeymoon with James Cromwell brought her through Muslim countries for the first time and concluded with an extended stay in Hawaii. Deeply impressed by the cultures she had encountered, and inspired to create a haven for the Islamic art she had collected during those travels, she commissioned a home in Honolulu to be designed by Marion Sims Wyeth (1889-1982). Wyeth was known for his work on many of the notable Palm Beach mansions (including the exterior of the Marjorie Merriweather Post estate, Mar-a-Lago) and was later to design the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. Taking an active role in developing the plans for Shangri La, Doris Duke intended the architecture to be influenced by the Islamic artworks and artifacts she had collected, and envisioned a growing collection that would be shaped in turn by the architecture.

Three historic buildings by Wyeth occupy the five-acre property. The collection ranges from pre-Islamic material to early 20th century commissions and is particularly strong in material from the 17th through 20th centuries and in ceramic tiles and vessels.

Shangri La was opened to the public in November 2002 as a center for Islamic arts and culture. It is owned and operated by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which Doris Duke created in her will to promote the study, understanding, and preservation of Islamic art and culture. DDFIA is an operating foundation supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Shangri La offers public tours, presents lectures, performances and other special programs at the property, and since 2004 has maintained scholar-in-residence and artist-in-residence programs on site. DDFIA also supports the use of the arts and media to increase Americans’ understanding of Muslim cultures through the New York-based Building Bridges Program.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores the blur zone between art, design, and craft today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the artisanal to digital. The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by gifted and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day. At the center of the Museum’s mission is education. The Museum’s dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families, and adults. Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances, and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the world of contemporary art, craft, and design are held in a renovated 144-seat auditorium. –

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