The dusty art of Hawaiian culture of yore (think: hula girl lamps and oil paintings of palm trees) has given rise to a thriving Honolulu arts community. Downtown pop-ups, the biggest street art festival in the world, and established galleries showcase vibrant local artists and their internationally acclaimed works. There is new talent melding genres throughout the visual arts, resulting in the engagement of a younger jet set—and the art-savvy traveler is arriving to seek out some of this Hawaiian culture.
When checking in to the Honolulu arts scene, a good first stop is with the downtown galleries, where you can find a little bit of everything. In particular, the First Fridays event each month allows you to walk around the district and take a look at some recent works, all with a glass of wine in hand. The Andrew Rose Gallery is a minimalist chic ode to Hawaii’s contemporary artists. You get a taste of the avant garde at Art at Mark’s Garage, or if you tend more to the traditional, you can browse the landscapes and figure studies at Louis Pohl and Pegge Hopper galleries. Downtown, there is a little something for everyone.
POW! WOW! Hawaii
Hawaiians Kamea Hadar and Jasper Wong launched POW! WOW! in Hong Kong, and now it’s a global art entity whose heart beats in Hawaii. Every spring, muralists, graffitists, and avant garde artists come from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and all over the US to partake in POW! WOW! Hawaii. The artsy warehouse district of Kakaako is covered throughout the year with murals that range from social commentary cartoons to stunning portraits that evolve or appear to move as you drive or walk past the corrugated tin siding that forms their canvases. It’s worth seeing them in action at the event, but since the murals stick around for a while, you can always visit the district other times through the year.
Honolulu Museum of Art
Honolulu’s Contemporary Museum, perched high on Mount Tantalus with stunning skyline views of Honolulu, merged with the Honolulu Academy of Arts to form a new partnership: the Honolulu Museum of Art. Now, the institution contains dedicated halls to modern masters. The mountainside location of the Spalding House features a rolling outdoor garden with Toshiko Takaezu’s stunning ceramic vessels, as well as metal sculptures by Satoru Abe. Immerse yourself in David Hockney’s permanent L’Enfant et les Sortilèges collection and get lost in his wild world of color. The center also hosts special events monthly, featuring live performances by renowned graffiti artists, or showings for emerging photographers.
The Scene in Waikiki
Art has collided beautifully with fashion in Waikiki. At the Luxury Row shops, a decade-long commitment to the Modern Masters arts celebration showcases a number of the most prominent Hawaii-based artists’ work, alongside couture garments. You can see the works on display inside the shops throughout the month, but if you attend the opening celebration, you might get to meet and chat with some of the artists. You might find ceramicist Ron Kent’s statuesque clay pieces inside the Chanel store, while Mark Kadota’s intricate paintings could hang in Tiffany & Co, and Satoru Abe’s copper and bronze sculptures may dot the shelves inside the Gucci boutique. Shopping never felt like such a cultural experience.