The Nasher presents ‘Doris Duke’s Shangri La’

The Nasher presents ‘Doris Duke’s Shangri La’

September 3, 2013 

Doris Duke and James Cromwell fishing in the ocean below Shangri La, 1939. 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.


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,” has opened at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

“Doris Duke was ahead of her time, with an eye for art that was not well known in the Western world,” says 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.

Where: The Nasher Museum, 2001 Campus Drive at Anderson Street on the Duke campus

When: 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.

Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for non-Duke students with identification, $4 for seniors, free to members of the Duke Alumni Association with ID 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.

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