Travel Back in Time & Around the World Learn about Doris Duke’s International Travels at the Annual Exhibit at Rough Point

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The Newport Restoration Foundation announces the annual exhibit at the Galleries at Rough Point. The 2012 exhibit, Passport to the World: Doris Duke the International Traveler, will be part of the Rough Point tour from April 12 - November 3.

Doris Duke’s early childhood travel with her parents planted the seed for what became her lifelong wanderlust. Throughout her life Miss Duke cultivated her curiosity for learning and her passion for travel, which are explored in a new exhibit at the galleries at Rough Point, her Newport mansion. Visitors are invited on a journey back in time and around the world in Passport to the World: Doris Duke the International Traveler. Opening April 12, 2012, the exhibit will focus on where she traveled, as well as on the decorative arts, furnishings and fashions she collected along the way.

“For Doris Duke traveling was more than just a vacation. Even as a child, she was charmed and excited by the discoveries of travel. As she got older, going to out-of-the-way places enriched her understanding and appreciation of art and culture,” explains Kristen Costa, exhibit curator. “We can see how her extensive travels influenced her art collections. While she had many passions and interests in her lifetime, exploring the world was clearly important to her.”

While many of her peers traveled to sightsee and be seen in social circles, Miss Duke often journeyed to lesser known destinations, which provided her with privacy from the ongoing scrutiny of the press. Wherever she went – from India to China to Indonesia – she would immerse herself in the culture of a country and learn about local people and customs.

Like many travelers, Miss Duke often returned home with beautiful objects as reminders of these amazing places. Forgoing traditional souvenirs, she purchased art for her collections, furniture for her homes and fabulous fashions. A variety of these acquisitions are part of the exhibit including:

  •     Southeast Asian Art – Miss Duke became captivated with the art and architecture of Thai culture during a 1957 stay in Bangkok. In the sixties she began amassing a collection of Southeast Asian art for an intended Thai village in Hawaii, which never came to fruition. The collection was stored at her Duke Farms property and auctioned off in 2004. The Newport Restoration Foundation purchased several of these items which will be seen for the first time in this exhibit.
  •     Occasional Chair, ca. 1820 – Miss Duke purchased this mother-of-pearl, ormolu and silk chair, made by Johann Tanzwhol in Austria, at Aveline in Paris sometime in the late fifties. The chair, once owned by Helena Rubenstein, is kept in Miss Duke’s personal bedroom.
  •     Fashions & Accessories – The exhibit features wardrobe pieces acquired around the world, including an Italian suit by Battilocchi; an evening coat by Ireland’s Sybil Connelly; and a spectacular custom-beaded, handmade silk dress from India. Also on display are several of her travel accessories including a Louis Vuitton trunk and suitcases, Hermes travel wallet and a vanity suitcase from Morabito in Paris.

“Besides being a jetsetter, Doris Duke was a fashion trendsetter,” adds Costa. “The wardrobe items on display in the exhibit not only reflect her personal style, but give insight into her appreciation for the cultures she visited.”

In addition to the items she collected during her travels, the exhibit will feature many of her rare, personal travel photographs, which offer unique perspectives on the people, places and things Miss Duke chose to remember along the way.

Passport to the World: Doris Duke the International Traveler will be on exhibit in the galleries at Rough Point through November 3, 2012. Guided house tours, which last approximately 75 minutes and include the exhibit, cost $25. Children 12 and younger are admitted for free. Tours are offered 10:00-2:00, Thursday-Saturday, April 12 – May 12. From May 15 to November 3, tours are offered 10:00-3:45, Tuesday-Saturday. In addition, the galleries are open during Rough Point After Dark, a series of special evening events offered as part of Newport Gallery Night, held on the second Thursday of each month. For more information or to buy tickets, visit or call (401) 847-8344.

Rough Point was bequeathed to the Newport Restoration Foundation by Doris Duke upon her death in 1993, complete with all of its contents. It was her express wish that it be opened to the public as a house museum. Founded by Miss Duke in 1968, the Newport Restoration Foundation, a non-profit institution, was formed with the express purpose of preserving, interpreting, and maintaining landscape and objects reflecting Aquidneck Island’s 18th- and 19th-century architectural culture.

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Jeanine Kober
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