Doris Duke’s Shangri La – Hawaii’s amazing Islamic art collection

Posted March 14th, 2013 under Architecture, Collections, Islam, Uncategorized

Doris Duke's Islamic art collection at Hawaii's Shangri La
Built in 1937, Doris Duke’s Shangri La house in Hawaii is hiding an impressive collection of Islamic art and is considered one of the islands most architecturally significant homes. The Shangri La is also a center for Islamic arts and cultures offering guided tours, residencies for scholars and artists, and programs for the purpose of improving understanding of the Islamic world. There are a few photos of this amazing place over here.

American philanthropist and art collector Doris Duke (1912-1993) decided to build a seasonal home in Honolulu after her honeymoon in 1935, which took her through the Islamic world for the first time and included an extended stay in Hawai. Finding herself captivated by Islamic art and architecture and enamored with Hawaii, Duke designed her new home in collaboration with architect Marion Sims Wyeth to evoke the beauty and character of each. She also owned the “Falcon’s Lair” in Beverly Hills, California, once the home of Rudolph Valentino.

Daughter of an immensely rich tobacco tycoon, Duke was able to fund a life of global travel and wide-ranging interests. These extended across journalism, competition surfing, jazz piano, wildlife conservation, Oriental art and Hare Krishna.

Much of her work centered on her father’s estate at Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, where she created many elaborately-themed gardens, furnished with artifacts acquired on her world travels, including one of America’s largest indoor botanical displays. She was also active in preserving more than eighty historic buildings in Newport, Rhode Island.

Twice married and divorced, Duke enjoyed a colorful private life that was seldom out of the gossip-columns.

For nearly 60 years, Doris Duke continued to collect Islamic art, ultimately forming a collection of about 2,500 objects, many of which are embedded into the structure of the house. Iranian ceramic tile panels, carved and painted ceilings from Morocco, jalis (perforated screen) doors and windows, and textiles and carpets create a living environment of Islamic art and architectural decoration.

Her philanthropic work continued into her old age, some of it unknown to the public during her lifetime, and her estimated $1.3 billion fortune was largely left to charity. After much legal challenging of the executors and trustees, Duke’s legacy is now administered by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, dedicated to medical research, prevention of cruelty to children and animals, the performing arts, wildlife and ecology.

Several biographies of Duke have been published, most notably Stephanie Mansfield’s The Richest Girl in The World (Putnam 1994). In 1999, a four-hour made-for-television mini-series, based on Mansfield’s book, (starring Lauren Bacall as Duke and Richard Chamberlain as Lafferty) was aired with the title, Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke. Trust No One (1997) by Ted Schwarz with Tom Rybak, was co-authored by one of Duke’s staff. Her disinherited nephew, Pony Duke, and Jason Thomas published Too Rich: The Family Secrets of Doris Duke in 1996. Her life is also the subject of the 2007 HBO film Bernard and Doris, starring Susan Sarandon as Duke and Ralph Fiennes as the butler Lafferty.

Links for Doris Duke’s Shangri La:
- Doris Duke’s Shangri La house
- Photos of “Doris Duke’s Shangri La – A House in Paradise Hawaii.”
- Doris Duke at
- Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
- Doris Duke Biographical History and Archival Collections (Duke University Libraries)
- The Duke University Libraries on Youtube – Digital Collections
- Book: Doris Duke’s Shangri-La: A House in Paradise: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art
- Website and video at the madmuseum for the exihibition “Doris Duke’s Shangri La” which has just closed.

At Home with Doris Duke: Selections from her personal home movies