Talk to 10 different artists and you’ll get ten rather different takes on who is significant and what’s “hot” at the moment in the Hawaii arts scene. But one thing that’s indisputable is that the last decade in the islands has brought new talent melding new genres in the visual arts, which has resulted in the engagement of a younger, jet set and art savvy public. Whereas Hawaii seemed to have “stalled” (generally speaking) in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s—with no shortage of plein air landscape painters and those capturing the many views of a bird of paradise outcropping—Hawaii seems now to have moved well beyond. Take a look at our guide to Honolulu galleries for the top art spots on the island.
The former Contemporary Museum, perched high on Mt. Tantalus with stunning skyline views of Honolulu and the South Shore of Oahu, has recently merged with the Honolulu Academy of Arts to form the new partnership that became the Honolulu Museum of Art. The museum contains exhibition halls dedicated to modern “masters,” meaning sculpturists, painters, woodworkers and the like. The mountainside location’s Spalding House features a range that includes a David Hockney collection, world-renowned graffiti artists, a lesser-known Hong Kong photographer that shoots exclusively on beaches throughout Hawaii and many more.
Fresh vivacity has been breathed into the Honolulu arts scene through nighttime events that draw twenty to forty-somethings, who now populate the museums and galleries with regularity. Invigorating the scene is renewed interest in Hawaiian and U.S. arts from visitors from Japan, China and Korea, who also seem to be supporting these pop-up artist communities by buying works.
First Fridays, an explosive event that takes place in Chinatown on the first Friday of each month, has gone from art enthusiasts only to a packed standing-room-only monthly festival. This, of course, has spawned “Third Thursdays” and so on, for those keen on “really” appreciating fine art. Geared towards a younger crowd, there’s a growing tattoo artists and glass blowing scene on the islands, too.
Many of the state-run art institutions (Hawaii State Art Museum), as well as the Honolulu Museum of Art, offer classes, lectures and seminars for both residents engaging in a medium on a regular basis, as well as those visiting who want to experience Polynesian or Hawaiian arts practices on a one-time basis.
Regardless, there’s never been better a time engage with the arts scene throughout Hawaii.
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Have you explored Hawaii’s art scene? Which galleries would you recommend visiting in Honolulu? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Brian Berusch
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About the author: BrianBeruschBrian Berusch
Brian Berusch traded in his Manhattan gym membership for a quiver of surfboards, trail running shoes and a one-way ticket to Honolulu more than a decade ago. Since then, he’s interviewed dozens of celebrities and covered the destination for more than 25 travel and lifestyle magazines. He’s an award-winning Editorial Director, a Today Show correspondent and most recently the publisher of two new magazines. He has yet to “get barreled” in the perfect wave.