Academy to host Islamic art symposium

“Islamic Art in Paradise,” an event aimed at exploring current issues in the study and collecting of Islamic art, begins on Thursday at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The symposium is hosted by the Academy as well as the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which gave a substantial grant to the Academy to support art programs and educational activities that focus on Islamic and Hawaiian art and culture.

The gathering will also celebrate the opening of Shangri La — the Hawaii residence of heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke — to public tours (coordiated through the Academy), as well as the new Arts of the Islamic World gallery.

“This symposium is another step towards the fulfillment of Doris Duke’s dream to promote the art and culture of Islam,” says Academy Director George Ellis.

The symposium will allow the public to learn more about the history and diversity of Islamic art, and will give a group of distinguished invited scholars of Islamic art and other professionals to have a first hand look at the Academy’s new collection. The program is divided between presentations at the Academy that will be open to the public free of charge, and special tours and informal sessions at Shangri La for the scholars and other professional participants.

The symposium will be held at The Doris Duke at the Academy — formerly the Academy Theater. Admission to the public programs are free, however seating is limited and will be offered first come, first served. No advance reservations are required.

January 9: Welcome and presentation of the papers by Holland Cotter, The New York Times art critic, and Shangri La curator Dr. Sharon Littlefield.

January 10: Presentations of papers by Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus at Princeton and Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Tom Lentz, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s International Art Museum, Linda Komaroff, Curator of Islamic Art at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, and David Roxburgh, Associate Professor with the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University.

American heiress Doris Duke (1912-1993) built Shangri La following several trips to Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and India. During these travels, she developed a taste for Islamic art and culture, and incorporated various elements of traditional Islamic architecture in the design and décor of her Honolulu home. At the same time, she began to collect and commission works of art from throughout the Islamic world. By the time of her death in 1993, Duke had amassed a varied collection of several thousand objects, including ceramics, glass, textiles, metalwork, woodwork, illustrated manuscripts, as well as entire room interiors.

Overall, Shangri La is a significant collection of Islamic art, which illustrates both the diversity of cultures and art forms in the Islamic world and the unique aesthetic of the collector, Doris Duke.

In her will, Doris Duke created the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art to manage Shangri La and promote the study and understanding of Middle Eastern art and culture. The will also directs that Shangri La be accessible to scholars and the public alike.

The foundation gave a major grant to the Academy in 2001 to support art programs and educational activities that focus on Islamic and Hawaiian art and culture. In addition to the symposium, the Academy has used the grant to create a new gallery Arts of the Islamic World, renovate the Academy Theater, and establish an endowment to support Islamic and Hawaiian programs that complement activities at Shangri La — including performing arts, film series, and festivals.

Last July, the Academy renamed the Academy Theater, Doris Duke at the Academy, in honor of Doris Duke. Prior to renaming, the theater was closed for extensive renovations, which included the installation of a Harkness Hall projection screen and Dolby Digital Surround Sound for cinema and a Myers Concert Sound System for musical performances. It also received new carpeting and seating.

The new Arts of the Islamic World gallery opened in October 2002.

For more information about the Islamic Art in Paradise symposium, or other Islamic programming at the Academy call (808) 532-8700. For information about the opening of Shangri La, including special media previews, call Stryker Weiner & Yokota Public Relations, Inc., at (808) 523-8802.

One thought on “Academy to host Islamic art symposium

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