Blog / Shangri La: Art as home, home as art

Posted by Wendy Hower

The Nasher Museum installs "Doris Duke's Shangri La." Photo by J Caldwell.


Some art lovers build a home for the art they collect. Others collect art to fill a home.
Heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke did neither–and both. Inspired by the Taj Mahal during a honeymoon trip around the world, and drawn to the beauty and seclusion of Hawai’i, she built a sprawling, oceanfront estate in Honolulu and spent five decades perfecting it as a wonderland of Islamic art.

The Nasher Museum is busy installing the exhibition, “Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art,” opening Thursday, August 29.

Doris Duke did not simply hang art on the walls of Shangri La; rather, she transformed the walls, ceilings, floors, doorways and entire rooms into installations of art. She began collecting Islamic art during a 10-month honeymoon trip around the world in 1935 to Egypt, India (where she was inspired by the Taj Mahal), Indonesia, China, Japan and Hawai’i. 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. In 1955, an 18th-century Syrian interior was shipped and reinstalled as the Damascus Room in Shangri La. The 60 works in the exhibition are on view in North Carolina for the first time.




IMAGES: (TOP) Chief Preparator Brad Johnson, Assistant Curator Katie Adkins and members of the Brummer Society talk about Islamic art in a behind-the-scenes tour of the installation of “Doris Duke’s Shangri La.” (ABOVE) members of the Brummer Society enjoy learning about the thought and expertise behind the scenes of the exhibition. Photos by J Caldwell.

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