NEW YORK - Occasionally in this space I’ll fill you in on art world openings and parties in NYC or elsewhere – that magical 6-8pm zone of white wine in plastic glasses and trying to look at art through a thicket of bodies.

At MAD’s new exhibition, “Doris Duke’s Shangri-La,” you can get up close and personal with treasures from the heiress’s Hawaiian estate.

Wednesday this week it was a triple-header, starting with the opening of “Doris Duke’s Shangri-La: Architecture, Landscape and Islamic Art” at the Museum of Arts and Design (on view through 17 Feb). I was there a bit before the crowd, and was able to see the tobacco heiress’s good taste on display – a few choice Islamic objects she collected for her magnificent Hawaiian estate, like a blue-green Iranian star tile from the 14th century, along with a few 1930s outfits (are halter dresses poised for a comeback?) and lovely architectural drawings. Best of all may be Tim Street-Porter’s blown-up photos of Shangri-La, lit behind in a way that makes you think you could walk right into the ocean-side scenes.

Doris Duke, Photo by Martin Munkacsi, 1939, Photo Credit: Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Historical Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

By the time I got over to Marian Goodman Gallery on 57th Street, the opening for “Gerhard Richter: Strip Paintings 2012” (on view until 13 Oct) was in full swing. The 80-year-old German painter was there, and pretty much everyone had an iPhone out to take his picture – including me – since he’s such an icon at this point. (Mine didn’t turn out, otherwise I’d share them with you here.)

Gerhard Richter's 919 STRIP, 2011, Unique digital print mounted between Aludibond and Perspex, Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris.

The severe but beguiling works on view, multicolored layers of paper-thin strips of color that seem to vibrate before your eyes, held the walls with great confidence, but it was hard to focus on them with the great man himself on hand, huddling at one point with his diminutive dealer, Goodman, as people crowded around them hoping for a bit of dropped gossip.

The crowd was equally dense at a very different kind of opening in Chelsea, at the Walther Collection Project Space, my third and final stop. This NYC branch of the fascinating German-based Walther Collection, the photography passion project of the former Goldman Sachs exec Arthur Walther, has a show unlike any other you’ll see this autumn.

A.M. Duggan-Cronin, Ovambo (Ogandjera) Woman, 1936, Courtesy of the Walther Collection.

It’s Part I of “Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive,” which will run in three phases until next spring. It’s essentially two views of South African past – one from a white European who wanted to document disappearing tribal life, and a current-day artist who collected images that Africans made of themselves around the same era. This exhibition takes patience and attention, but that will be rewarded when you see the way the show takes the old National Geographic approach and does a double-flip.

Tags:New York, Events, Exhibitions