Now that Honolulu has two alternating, yet similar, museum exhibitions, is the art scene really going to be better?
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Photo courtesy of the Honolulu Academy of Arts
Last year, nearly 400 artists across the Islands submitted more than 900 pieces to the Academy’s “Artists of Hawaii” in an open call. These submissions were juried by guest curator Russell Ferguson, who selected about 50 artists showing slightly more than 75 works. And nothing was for sale. Percentage-wise, it was already harder to get into the last “Artists of Hawaii” than the Ivy League. Since a biennial in the temporary exhibition space at the Academy can reasonably present about a dozen artists in depth, roughly a quarter of the previous number of artists will be selected to show their work for 2009, making “Artists of Hawaii” even more exclusive.
Eli Baxter’s sculpture uses bicycle parts.
Photo courtesy of the Contemporary Museum's Biennial
Of course, those who are chosen for the Academy’s new biennial format will enjoy an instant increase in attention toward their work. And the public will get the most challenging presentation of local art ever from its flagship museum, since biennials focus on deeper investigations of an artist’s work, compared with annuals, which typically present a large number of unrelated pieces. Gaye Chan, chair of art and art History at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and also an alumna of these shows, says the Academy’s choice allows for risk-taking. “What they’ve done is raise the bar of what the audience can expect from artists of Hawaii.”