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Emerald Cities main exhibition | Introduction | Exhibition review by Gary Gach


Asian Art Museum, San Francisco October 23, 2009 - January 10, 2010

The Doris Duke Collection

Doris Duke  
Doris Duke (1912-1993) inherited a fortune from her father James Buchanan Duke, a tobacco and hydropower magnate and benefactor of Duke University. From the time of a honeymoon tour to India, Thailand, Indonesia, and other Asian countries in 1935, Doris Duke was fascinated with the region’s cultures. In later decades she gathered countless antiques and artworks on her worldwide excursions and assembled notable collections of Islamic and Southeast Asian art.

Duke herself was a notable personality who featured prominently in celebrity magazines. This exhibition featuring artworks from her collection tells a little-known chapter of this intriguing woman’s life.

  Doris Duke

Doris Duke’s Southeast Asian art collection comprised more than 2000 artworks and other objects including woodcarvings, furniture, traditional costumes, weapons, theatrical masks, and musical instruments as well as utilitarian household utensils and pottery. The collection was housed at Duke Farms—Doris Duke’s estate in New Jersey—where for many years it remained largely unknown to both the public and specialists. Many art objects were displayed in a handsome converted coach barn. Others were stored in an indoor tennis court and an indoor shooting gallery.

Doris Duke  

After Doris Duke’s death in 1993, her Southeast Asian art collection became the responsibility of the trustees of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. After careful consideration, the trustees decided that Doris Duke would have wanted the objects to be shared with the public, and approved a plan to donate the collection to appropriate museums. The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore received the largest donations. In total, the foundation donated nearly 700 objects to some twenty museums across the US and abroad.

Before donating the collection, the foundation commissioned a book by Dr. Nancy Tingley, formerly a curator at the Asian Art Museum, to document the history and significance of the collection. The book, Doris Duke: The Southeast Asian Art Collection, is available in the Asian Art Museum museum store and can be downloaded free of charge from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s web site.

Can be ordered in association with from

Hardcover: 104 pages
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (July 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0824827732
ISBN-13: 978-0824827731
Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 10.2 x 0.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds

all text & images © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco


Emerald Cities main exhibition | Introduction | Exhibition review by Gary Gach | exhibitions