Thursday, October 5, 2023

Eye-popping Honolulu Museum of Art opens minds, eyes, imagination

Honolulu Museum of Art's extensive collection includes significant holdings in Asian art, American and European painting and decorative arts. The Asian collection is among the Pacific's finest.


"Lobster,"  a work by Hawaiian artist Noah Harders, is among eye-catching
pieces on view at the magnificent Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii.



A MUSEUM should draw the viewer in, stimulate the mind, recharge the brain and conjure thoughts of  life in other cultures.

The splendid Honolulu Museum of Art does all that and more.

From the Bronze Age to contemporary times, including dozens of countries and cultures, this fascinating museum opens the eye to a world of change and creativity.

Founder Anna Rice Cooke had a vision.  Born into a prominent missionary family in Oahu, she grew up in a home that nurtured an appreciation for the arts.

The design of the building incorporates architectural touches
from many cultures, reflecting Hawaii's mix of influences.

As a young woman in the 1880s, she began the collection that would become Hawaii's first visual arts museum, reflecting the islands' intriguing cultural mélange.
THE MUSEUM is a treasure trove 
An installation by British artist Rebecca Louise Law
provides an enchanting walkway for Bruce Keller.
of stunning art from around the globe. Cooke's philanthropy encouraged other donors.  As she might have  hoped, her gift encouraged other donors. The museum's African art, for example, includes 230 unusual objects which began with a gift of textiles from Mrs. Charles R. Hyde in 1931. Since then, the African collection has grown to include sculpture, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries.  Other pieces include a terra cotta kneeling figure from the 5th Century BC culture of present-day Nigeria to a centuries later piece created in the 1800s, a beautiful carved wood female fertility figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
ANOTHER stand-out piece in this wide-ranging museum is a stunning "wearable art" work, "Lobster," of found organic materials. Artist Noah Harders says he "reimagines" flora, fauna and found objects through his passion and "crazy progression in finding myself."  His Hawaiian ancestry and study at Chicago's famous Art Institute complement one another in his bold organic inspirations. The piece on this page uses flowers, leaves, molted crustacean shells, and fishbones, an intriguing work of art.
THE MUSEUM promotes beauty, harmony, learning, self-awareness, and connection with nature, with its continent-spanning holdings in Asian art, American and European painting and decorative arts. Add to that 19th- and 20th-century art, an extensive collection of works on paper, Asian textiles, and revolving installations such as a lyrical display of leaves and blossoms by Rebecca Louise Law of Britain.
ALL THIS beauty stems from the generosity and curiosity of Cooke and her daughter Alice Spalding, who by the 1920s were cataloguing and researching  
dozens of art pieces.  They obtained a charter for the museum from the Territory of Hawaii in 1922 and the family donated their Beretania Street land and $25,000 for the museum's 500 works.
Their home was torn down to make way for the building whose unique design is the creation of New York architect
A Deborah Butterfield horse frames Christene "Cookie"
Meyers in one of the museum's corridors. Both women --
the internationally known sculptor and writer -- have
Montana roots and Cookie has photographed Butterfield's
magnificent horses in various settings around the world.

  Bertram Goodhue. He used natural light and Hawaii's temperate climate as his inspiration. When Goodhue died before the project was completed, his colleague Hardie Phillip finished the job. Over the years, the museum’s architectural style grew, incorporating Hawaiian, Chinese, and Spanish influences. This appealing blend has been imitated in many buildings throughout the state.
Mrs. Cooke's desire was “That our children of many nationalities and races, born far from the centers of art, may receive an intimation of their own cultural legacy." She wanted people of all persuasions "to wake to the ideals embodied in the arts of their neighbors." 
The Honolulu Museum of Art's extensive collection begins in the yard.
It began when the Cooke family's collection outgrew its home more 
than a century ago. Its collection is highly regarded internationally.  

In a lovely statement delivered at the museum's dedication on April 8, of 1927, she expressed her hope "that Hawaiians, Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Northern Europeans, South Europeans, and all other people living here... would perceive a foundation on which a new culture, enriched by all the old strains may be built in these islands.”
The museum also offers workshops, school tours and many other outreach programs to involve and educate the community.
MORE INFO or to book tickets:

We recommend a fun way to get there, the "hop on and off" Waikiki Trolley:

Whale watching is a passion worldwide for Bruce Keller
and Christene "Cookie" Meyers. Next up, a whale watch
with resident whales in Depoe Bay, Oregon. 

UP NEXT: Whales are a passion for both of us -- writer and photographer of this weekly endeavor -- and one of our most exciting whale watching adventures was in Depoe Bay, Oregon, where resident humpback whales spend a few months frolicking and enjoying the beautiful warm waters. We went out four days with one of the country's best guides, and report back next week. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live -- respecting nature -- and checking out our blogs on travel, nature, the arts, family and more at: 



  1. We Hawaiians are all proud of this wonderful national treasure.

  2. Los Angeles art loversOctober 11, 2023 at 6:26 AM

    Our favorite Hawaii museum for the Asian collections.

  3. I take my seventh grade culture and arts class each year. Wonderful teaching tool.

  4. This museum is an international treasure. Appreciate your recognizing it with such a lovely piece.