Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, May 11, 2001

In front of the newly open Henry R. Luce Pavilion at
the Honolulu Academy of Arts are ceramic sculptures
by Jun Kaneko, which echo the vertical lines of the
Pavilion's pillars.

On the Luce

The new complex at the Honolulu
Academy of Arts blends seamlessly
with older structures, offering a
handsome, state-of-the-art
exhibition space

By Burl Burlingame

oNE of the really distinguishing things about the new Henry R. Luce Pavilion wing at the Honolulu Academy of Arts is how undistinguished it is.

It's nestled in the back where the itty-bitty parking lot used to be and looks like it's always been there. It fits right in. And that's the idea. Architect John Hara is known for his sensitivity to "incorporating" additions and extensions to existing structures, and when the structure is a landmark piece like the Academy, you don't fool around. Too many people are too fond of that complex. Hawaii's architects once voted it the most outstanding existing example of kamaaina architecture.

An artist's rendering of the new Henry R. Luce
Pavilion before construction.

' Landscape architect Juli Kimura Walters didn't start from scratch, either. She chose largely mature plants to soften the area's lines, and they have the effect of appearing to have been in place for a good long time, too. Although, as the year turned, it was still a construction site.

The Luce Pavilion is appended onto the already existing Clare Booth Luce Wing -- Hara designed that piece back in the '60s -- and since the Luces were married, that's a nice touch.

The new Luce building is the centerpiece of the Luce Pavilion Complex, a $17 million expansion that also includes a new, expanded cafe, an enlarged gift shop, the gardens, a 60-foot waterfall and the two galleries housed within the structure.

A peek into the "Na Maka Hou: New Visions" exhibition
in the completed structure's downstairs gallery.

The ground floor is the traveling-exhibit gallery; the second-floor John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery is a permanent museum display tracing the history of art in the islands, the only place in the world where Hawaiian art is placed in a linear perspective.

Each gallery is about 8,000 square feet. But we're not talking about a barn here. Even though the Academy of Arts is a lovely building, it wasn't designed to modern museum standards, and much of the work done by the staff of the museum in the last decade has focused on artifact conservation.

The new building has high-quality climate-control systems built in, plus fire-suppression devices and ADA-compliance features such as elevators. (This last item is coyly referred to in museum literature as "vertical transportation systems.")

All of this is due to what the museum trustees dubbed the "Renaissance Campaign" in 1998, a $25 million renovation plan to max out the museum's potential exhibit space, refine the in-house cash cows like the gift shop and cafe, and provide specialized care for the collections. The Luce Complex is the biggest piece.

Old story, new vision: Herb Kane's "Battle At Nuuanu
Pali" is one of the works by contemporary Hawaii
artists on view in the new Luce Gallery.

"With our 75th anniversary coming up next year, this was the program that made the most sense, along with renovating the Asian art gallery," said museum director George Ellis. "Without the generosity of the Luce Foundation, it would not have come together."

Does it work? The only equivalent structure in the islands is the Castle Memorial Building at Bishop Museum, and that's a mammoth, stand-alone building. We can report that the Luce Pavilion is well integrated into the museum's self-guiding tour infrastructure and that it provides a clean, well-lit home for art and artifacts. All that is noticeable on the inside is the exhibit, and that's as it should be.

And the current show is fabulous, one of the best-mounted and most comprehensive surveys ever of current Hawaiian art and artists, "Na Maka Hou: New Visions." You're presented, smack, with the range of modern Hawaiian art right as you walk in the door, with Herb Kane's meticulous and scholarly "Battle of Nuuanu Pali" historical epic parked next to Michael Cheek's distressed-looking 3-D painting of the Hawaiian flag.

Museum goers browse in the Honolulu Academy of
Arts new gift shop adjacent to the new Henry R. Luce
Pavilion Complex, named after the co-founder and
editor-in-chief of Time magazine.

The exhibit has a wide scope in subject matter and style, ranging from Wright Bowman's elegant spruce model of the Hawaii Loa canoe; to quilts; to stone carvings; to Kapulani Landgraf's "installation" of fishhooks dancing around a mummylike figure; to Kau'i Chun's toppled, walk-through fun house of textured canvases; to Kaili Chun's brittle, dried lei hanging in stark vertical koa display cases, like a parody of Bishop Museum's Hawaii Hall.

Some pieces are very old-fashioned; others are cutting-edge and wickedly clever; all have absurdly high levels of craftsmanship. There are nearly a hundred pieces by 57 artists, chosen by a panel that included Momi Cazimero and Deborah Dunn.

What it all boils down to is something else worth seeing at the Academy of Arts, and a place suitable to see it in.

Luce Wing opening

What: Henry R. Luce Pavilion Complex opening
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 S. Beretania St.
Admission: Free
Call: 532-8700
Special: Ho'ike 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 19 and 1 to 5 p.m. May 20, with arts and crafts demonstrations, keiki activities and entertainment. Free admission.

The exhibits

>> "Na Maka Hou: New Visions" in the first-floor Henry R. Luce Gallery

>> "Hawai'i and Its Peoples" and "Pupu 'o Ni'ihau: An Exhibition of Ni'ihau Shell Leis" in the John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery, second floor of Luce Wing

>> "Tropical Energy: Recent Ceramic Sculptures and Drawings" by Jun Kaneko in Gallery 3, the front lawn and Academy Courtyards

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