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Got Culture: Honolulu Museum of Art and the Shangri’la

January 2, 2013

Got Culture: Honolulu Museum of Art and the Shangri’la

Hawaii is a place of natural beauty and tropical wonder. From the Waimea Canyon to Waikiki Beach, the sightseeing attracts many visitors to this volcanic island in the South Pacific. However, there’s more to this island than beautiful beaches, surf shops, clubs, and coconut trees. It’s only natural that a place so vibrant and cultural would attract artists of all kinds.

Varying up vacation activities in Hawaii requires an attention to the local galleries that really show off the diverse cultures and attitudes found on the island. Two places that bring an authentic and cultural spin to the southeastern shores of Oahu are the Honolulu home of Doris Duke, an Islamic artist, and the Honolulu Museum of Art, a historic visual arts facility in the heart of the Big Island.

Honolulu Museum of Art: The Honolulu Museum of Art was founded in 1927 and is the largest facility and gallery in Hawaii with over 50,000 pieces across 5,000 years. Located right off Lunalili Highway next to Puu Ulakaa State Park and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the museum is a center for films, cultural programs, art lectures, and workshops.

Find paintings like Henri Matisse's "Annelies, White Tulips, and Anemones" at the museum

Find paintings like Henri Matisse’s “Annelies, White Tulips, and Anemones” at the museum

"Hawaiian Mother and Child" by Charles W. Bartle

“Hawaiian Mother and Child” by Charles W. Bartle

Among the collection, you can find pieces from local Hawaiian artists, Asian, European, and American artists, as well as various textiles. The collections here span a variety of cultures across many time periods, even from ancient times. While tours offer learning experiences, many visitors come to the Honolulu Museum of Art for the Shangri’la tour, a two and a half hour event that travels through the historic home of Doris Duke.

Doris Duke’s Shangri’la: The Shangri’la was built in 1937 right on the beaches of Diamond Head. Doris Duke’s distinctive and eclectic collection of Islamic art can be found here. The Shangri’la is a center for Islamic art and culture in Honolulu, offering support for other artists by providing an inside look at Doris Duke’s personal art, archives, heirlooms, and unique furnishings. There’s more than just art to be found inside of this magnificent historic home. Literature, music, and dance resources are also profoundly displayed and made available to the public.

A snapshot of the Muslim decor at Shangri'la

A snapshot of the Muslim decor at Shangri’la

Public tours take visitors through each part of the Shangri’la home, including the Mihrab room and library, Syrian room, Mughal Garden, dining room, and Lanai. The dining area is especially fantastic as a beautiful view of the playhouse, pool, beach, and pavilion are revealed. If you want to see a bit of Doris Duke’s Shangri’la, just head online where you can find a virtual tour that takes you through intimate areas of the house. The public tour lasts for two and a half hours, departing from the Honolulu Museum of Art to the Shangri’la on the coast.

The art collection at Shangri’la shows off the beauty and culture of Islamic artists with multiple artifacts and pieces from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including collections from Mughal, Safavid, Qajar and Ottoman dynasties. Duke also made a point of collecting items that were from lesser-known artists, allowing for a varied collection that spans furniture, trinkets, artistic prints and historical pieces. As she was an avid collector who sought interesting over prestige, the collection provides an intimate look into what she loved the most and allows others to appreciate a wide variety of Islamic art.

While visiting Oahu, experiencing authentic Hawaiian culture and the artistic history should be a priority. Sure, where you rest your head at night will be an important part of your experience, but it’s places like Shangri’la and the Honolulu Museum of art that is going to capture your heart and enhance your stay on this beautiful island.

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