Published: June 22, 2004
The RISD Museum of Art has received a gift of Southeast Asian art from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Museum officials say they were “extremely fortunate” to receive the bequest.
The famed heiress and philanthropist had a strong commitment to Southeast Asian culture and over her lifetime amassed a large collection of objects only recently dispersed. The exhibition “Sumptuous Expression: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Gift of Southeast Asian Art” introduces highlights from the new acquisitions and related pieces from the permanent collection.
Works from the Duke collection range from a late Nineteenth Century Burmese gilded lacquer sculpture of the “Death of the Buddha” to a Fifteenth Century Thai standing bronze Buddha to exquisitely crafted baskets and objects for ritual and domestic use. The earliest piece on display is a Cambodian head thought to be an image of Shiva from the RISD Museum’s permanent collection. This Eleventh Century sculpture dates from the Angkor period.
During the 1950s and 60s, Duke traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia collecting mainly Eighteenth to Nineteenth Century Thai and Burmese art. The bulk of her collecting efforts focused on religious (Buddhist) objects; however, she also gather secular objects including ceramics, baskets, teapots and bowls. At that time, she was the only active Western collector outside of Thailand with the foresight to collect objects of this caliber.
In 1960, Duke had a vision to recreate a Thai Village near her Shangri La residence in Hawaii. She dreamt of lining a waterway with Thai houses, a temple and a sala, or large open-air meeting hall, and filling the structures with ritual objects from Thailand and Burma. A mere four years later she had amassed a collection of some 2,000 pieces of art, 14 Thai teak houses (disassembled and relocated to storage in Honolulu), 500,000 roof tiles and a sala.
Regrettably, plans for her Thai Village never reached fruition, yet Duke’s passion for collecting Western and Asian art continued until her death in 1993 at the age of 80. In her will, she left the majority of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, were also recently selected to receive gifts of Southeast Asian art from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
For information, 401-454-6500 or www.risdmuseum.org.
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