Sept. 22, 2016
HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I—After more than two years of planning, and a month of construction, the Honolulu Museum of Art unveils its completely reimagined Islamic Art Gallery on Oct. 6. The project is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF).
Curator of Asian art Shawn Eichman has worked closely with Shangri La, a museum of Islamic art and design and a program of DDCF, on the changes.
The museum has worked with Shangri La since it opened to the public in 2002, and the two organizations partnered to create educational programs, including tours, and a HoMA gallery space to showcase the collection of the newly formed institution. The foundation awarded HoMA a $3 million grant to support those programs, establish an Islamic Art Gallery at the museum, and renovate its theater and rename it in honor of Doris Duke. Working with Shangri La curatorial staff, the museum created the gallery, which has served as an introduction to Shangri La and Islamic art before guests board a shuttle bus to the site.
Cases and dividing walls have been torn out to create two open spaces, one for displaying 77 objects from Shangri La’s collection—some of which have not been publicly displayed before—and one dedicated to temporary exhibitions, including of contemporary artworks from Shangri La’s prestigious Artists-in-Residence Program. One wall is dedicated to a dazzling display of Islamic tiles—a major component of Islamic architecture and art.
The gallery presents a wide range of art from the Islamic world, including paintings, ceramics, decorative arts, furniture and jewelry. More fragile artworks such as textiles and works on paper will be shown periodically in special rotations.
Eichman, who had wanted to reconfigure the gallery to tap into Shangri La’s Artist-in-Residence Program since he joined the museum in 2007, finally got his wish when the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation made a $100,000 donation to the museum following the successful run of the 2015 exhibition Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art, organized by Shangri La. The museum is dedicating half of the gift to the gallery makeover.
“We redesigned the gallery with our expanding partnership with Shangri La in mind,” says Eichman. “For example, one of the biggest changes is the fact that we’ve made part of the gallery a flexible space that can coordinate with Shangri La’s Artists-in-Residence Program. When contemporary artists are working at Shangri La, they will have a space at the museum where their art can be displayed and where they can interact with the community.”
Shangri La executive director Konrad Ng cites the importance of having Islamic art be a part of a larger art historical context. “The Islamic art gallery showcases 77 essential objects from Shangri La’s rich collection, and when paired with the superb collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, we are able to tell a fantastic story about human creativity that crosses borders and cultures,” says Ng. “The reinstallation enables both museums to deepen the public’s understanding of the global culture of Islamic art and design.”
Where works were previously grouped into diverse displays, they will now be organized by medium. “It helps people gain a better grasp of the fundamentals of Islamic art,” explains Eichman.
The area for temporary installations will feature a new museum acquisition—the painting Memory for Forgetfulness by O‘ahu-based Lebanese artist Reem Bassous. The work was included in the museum's 2016 exhibition Beyond the Archive: Paintings by Reem Bassous,
One of the world’s premier art museums, the Honolulu Museum of Art presents international caliber special exhibitions and features a collection that includes Hokusai, van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso and Warhol, as well as traditional Asian and Hawaiian art.
Located in two of Honolulu’s most beautiful buildings, visitors enjoy two cafés, gardens, and films and concerts at the theater. The museum is dedicated to bringing together great art and people to create a more harmonious, adaptable, and enjoyable society in Hawai’i.
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties, including Shangri La – a museum of Islamic art and design. To learn more about the foundation, please visit www.ddcf.org. To learn more about Shangri La, please visit www.shangrilahawaii.org.
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