For the last month the Islamic Art Gallery has been closed while it undergoes a redesign and reinstallation. The project—done in collaboration with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and its museum, Shangri La—aims to transform a static space featuring classical Islamic art to a flexible space capable of accommodating contemporary works by participants in Shangri La’s prestigious Artists in Residence program. The gallery reopens Thursday, Oct. 6, and Shangri La executive director Konrad Ng and curator of Asian art Shawn Eichman share their excitement about the new space, and reveal their favorite works that visitors can enjoy come Thursday.
“Art can challenge us. Art can empower us,” says Ng. “The Islamic Gallery now presents the breadth, depth and connection of Islamic art and design in a wonderfully open and fresh way. The gallery showcases works—many for the first time—from our respective collections and organizes them through themes and media instead of by region or country. This approach to exhibiting iconic objects of the Islamic world allows us to view Islamic art and design as a truly global culture.”
When pressed to name his favorites, Ng points to the case of jewelry and American Islamic calligraphy artist Mohamed Zakariya’s There is nothing like Him. “These works are simultaneously particular and universal—artistic interpretations of the cultural values of their time while aspiring for timelessness,” says Ng. “I like that. The partnership between Shangri La and HoMA aims to enrich the opportunities for great art in Honolulu; the Islamic art gallery is one of the many ways we try to contribute to the civic fabric of our great state.”
The gallery underwent a month of construction, with cases knocked out, walls removed, and a fresh coat of paint added. “It is remarkable how the space has been transformed,” says Eichman. “It is much more open and spacious, and provides a beautiful setting for the many new works from the collections of Shangri La and HoMA that will be on display.”
Included in the first rotation of contemporary art will be works by Ayad Alkadhi, Walid Raad, and Reem Bassous, “I am thrilled to have Memory for Forgetfulness by Reem Bassous as a centerpiece of the new installation, since it extends the relevance of the gallery to our local community here in Hawai‘i. Superb examples of historic tiles from Shangri La, one of the hallmarks of its collection, will greet visitors as they first enter the gallery, and this will echo the experience of wandering through the exquisite architectural setting of Shangri La, further reinforcing the connections between our two institutions.”
In addition to the new layout, the reinstalled gallery will feature an iPad loaded with information about Shangri La, which visitors to our sister museum can use to discover more about Doris Duke and her O‘ahu home while they wait for their tour to leave. Find out more about how to book a tour to Shangri La here.