Wednesday, September 26, 2012
SHANGRI LA, DORIS DUKE'S ISLAMIC TREASURE (c) By Polly Guerin
SHANGRI LA AT LAST Opening during the centennial year of Doris Duke’s (1912-93) birth this is the first major exhibition about Shangri La to be shown outside of Hawaii. It tells the story of her transformative engagement with the Islamic world that brings her work at Shangri La to national audiences. Doris was ahead of her time in collecting Islamic art and the exhibition is a breathtaking presentation of the spectacular Honolulu home of this philanthropic art collector.
DORIS DUKE’S PASSION Shangri La reflects Doris Duke’s aesthetic passion for collecting rare and historic Islamic art. The impressive home incorporates carved marble doorways, decorated screens, coffered ceilings, floral ceramic tiles, and everywhere exuberant color. Inlaid mother-of-pearl wood furniture reminds me of the beautiful bedroom suite in her house at Rough Point, Rhode Island, for I once visited this mansion and wrote a previous story about it. Duke was an accomplished swimmer and was known to into the ocean, off the cliff at Rough Point for a daily swim. No wonder she engaged in competition surfing in Honolulu.
SHANGRI LA TODAY Structured around five acres of interlocking terraced gardens and pools, Shangri La overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu’s Diamond Head. The home itself is a wonder of unique architecture and much of its construction was supervised by Doris herself. The interior weaves together artifacts such as silk textiles, jewel toned chandeliers and rare ceramics. Most astonishing are the huge retractable windows in the living room which can be lowered to reveal the breathtaking outdoor panorama of the gardens and Pacific Ocean. Today Shangri La is open to the public with 2,500 objects many collected during her extensive international travels. To promote Islamic art to its fullest there is a scholar-in-residence and artist-in-resident program.
AN AMERICAN HEIRESS Throughout her life Doris Duke’s generosity was legendary and her largesse extended to many known philanthropic causes, and others rarely mentioned gained her support. She was the only daughter of an immensely rich tobacco tycoon, James Buchanan Duke, who lavished large on his child. An oversized portrait of Doris at Rough Point attests to her blonde beauty and attractiveness, yet she was a down-to-earth realist, a great hostess and never bored but continued to explore, create and make a difference in the art world.
JOIE DE VIVRE LIFESTYLE Doris Duke may have been born into a life of wealth and privilege, but she embraced it with a love for life on many levels. For one thing, I remember that she was an accomplished jazz pianist who befriended jazz musicians and held music sessions in her home at Rough Point and even sang in a gospel choir. She spoke fluent French and at one time early on she was a journalist for Harper’s Bazaar. Doris loved animals, particularly her dogs and pet camel, and later in life became a wildlife conservationist. Many of the rare holdings at Shangri La were acquiring during her 1935 honeymoon around the world with her husband, James H.R. Cromwell, the son of a Palm Beach doyenne. They had one child, a daughter Arden, who sadly lived but one day.
THE MAGNIFICENT OBJECTS IN DORIS DUKE’S SHANGRI LA DEMONSTRATE JUST WHAT AN ACTIVE AND SENSITIVE APPRECIATION OF ISLAMIC ART AND OBJECTS SHE HAD. NOW THESE TREASURES OPEN TO THE PUBLIC COLLECTIVELY TANTALIZE OUR IMAGINATION WITH THE IDYLLIC ISLAMIC-INSPIRED PARADISE SHE CREATED.
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- Polly Guerin
- Polly Guerin is an author/poet with four textbooks and 2 video productions as credentials as well as 4 books ready to be published. All my blogs are intended to become the basis for books to be published. PollyTalk From New York (c) is a current events blog about happenings in New York City. I have been PollyTalk columnist on the Internet, Big Apple News Network. AmazingArtDecoDivas blog features amazing women of notable character. I am on the board of the Art Deco Society of New York. The Fashion Historian blog gives pertinent insight into Polly's consummate knowledge about fashion history. Former professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Awaken Your Sleeping Beauty blog gives you pertinent information about holistic remedies for health, beauty, mind, body and spirit. I am on the board of the Edgar Cayce New York Center. I sing with the St. George's Choral Society and also serve on their Board. My little dog Colby is a rescue dog and I support animal charities. I hope you enjoy my blogs, please keep in touch.