A trip to paradise, all in an afternoon

Members and guests of the Greenwich Antiques Society produced quite a few “oohs and ahs” during the May 4 lecture on Shangri La that the society hosted at the Bruce Museum.

The society presented Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, whose association with American heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke’s Hawaiian retreat is both well-respected – and quite in depth.

I was particularly pleased to be welcomed, as it gave me both a chance to meet some of the Society’s members and also again enjoy the gentlemen’s work.

WAG, you may recall, featured the 2012 Doris Duke exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. The show was curated by Albrecht and Mellins, in collaboration with the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and the experts also wrote the exhibition’s accompanying book.

On this afternoon, they again toured us through a topic they clearly know so well, sharing their expertise and perspectives.

The house set within a five-acre property on the Pacific Ocean, Albrecht said, “is a remarkable synthesis of landscape, architecture and the decorative arts,” while Mellins noted it offered Duke “a personal refuge” away from the media glare.

They touched on many points, from Duke’s dazzling chandeliers and gardens to her ahead-of-her-time dedication to exploring and celebrating the Islamic arts, examples of which are synonymous with Shangri La.

In responding to a post-talk question, Albrecht said the one thing that truly resonated from his longtime study of Duke was the realization that in her “there seems to be a deeper seriousness of purpose than is oftentimes attributed to her.”

And the talk from Albrecht and Mellins helped us see the same.

For more on the society, which has announced it will formally change its name to the Greenwich Decorative Arts Society this summer, visit greenwichdecorativearts.org.

– Mary Shustack

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