Academy of Arts is Hawaii’s
prize-winning gem

The 1920s saw a nationwide burst of old-money altruism that still benefit citizens. In 1927, Anna Rice Cooke simply wanted to share a love of the arts with the people of Hawaii. "That our children of many nationalities and races, born far from the centers of art, may receive an intimation of their own cultural legacy and wake to the ideals embodied in the arts of their neighbors," she said.

Today, the Honolulu Academy of Arts holds one of the world's best collections of both Western and Asian art, reflecting Hawaii as a multicultural crossroads. We're talking about permanent holdings of 35,000 works are the James A. Michener Collection of ukiyo-e prints, paintings by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Cezanne; the Samuel H. Kress Foundation collection of Italian Renaissance paintings; traditional arts from Africa, the Pacific and the Americas; textiles; and 17,000 works on paper.

But what most residents remember from school field trips and countless weekend art classes are the cool, stucco facades and deep walls, the sense of being both inside and outside at once.

This was deliberate. New York architect Bertram Goodhue's vision of a classic, Hawaiian-style building combines interior and exterior spaces, echoing Hawaii's beauty and climate. Although Goodhue died before it was completed, local architect Hardie Phillip polished it off and the original structure is proclaimed "Hawaii's best building" by the Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

It is also recognized by the government as a National Historic Place and accredited by the American Association of Museums -- not too shabby for a place devoted to art rather than history.

The Honolulu Academy of Arts has been deemed "Hawaii's best building" by the Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Not only Hawaii's oldest and biggest art museum, it is a world-class collection.

More than 30 galleries surround six garden courtyards, each landscaped in a distinct mood. The inside-outsidedness came at a price, however. Being at one with nature also means variations in humidity and temperature, as well as inviting in paper-eating pests.

The last two decades have seen storerooms and galleries in the Academy quietly converted to strict climate-controlled to preserve thousands of artifacts.

In 2002, the Academy's 75th anniversary, the museum opened the Luce Pavilion Complex, adding two large galleries to the exhibition spaces. Tucked comfortably in the back of the traditional structure -- and hiding the view of high-rises -- the new galleries house a permanent collection of indigenous and traditional Hawaiian art.

The complex also boasts the Doris Duke Theatre -- a showcase for independent and documentary films, lectures and performances -- outdoor dining at the Garden Cafe and shopping at the Academy Shop. And there are still art classes. Somewhere out there is a keiki with a paintbrush whose works will someday hang on the wall at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

"X Marks the Spot" is a weekly feature documenting historic monuments and sites around Oahu. Send suggestions to xspot@starbulletin.com

| | |
E-mail to Travel Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com