Honolulu Biennial Art Festival Rocks Out at Honolulu Museum of Art

Art stars come out at nine venues through May 8.

Editors Note: Through our partnership with the Honolulu Museum of Art, HONOLULU Magazine publishes a monthly blog written by Lesa Griffith, the museum’s communications director and a talented Hawai‘i writer on arts, culture and food.

  Honolulu Museum of Art installation

Zhan Wang’s Artificial Rock #133
Photos: Courtesy of Honolulu Museum of Art


The inaugural Honolulu Biennial is now up and running—more than 2,200 people visited The Hub on March 8, opening day. That central exhibition venue is the former Sports Authority store on Ward Avenue amazingly reimagined as the island’s grandest art space. While most of the artwork is at The Hub, the biennial organizers have also placed installations at venues throughout the city, including the Honolulu Museum of Art.


On Feb. 23, a crane gingerly placed Zhan Wang’s Artificial Rock #133 on the museum’s front lawn—along with the real rock from which it was cast.

  Honolulu Museum of Art crane lifting rock


Beijing-born Wang, one of China’s superstar conceptual sculptors, has taken the fantastically eroded rocks revered by Chinese scholars since the eighth century and updated them for the 21st century by recreating the scholar’s rock in an industrial medium—stainless steel. The artist molds sheets of the metal around the surface of a traditional scholar’s rock (also known as “strange stone”), removes the sheets, welds them together, and burnishes the surface. You can see a 17th-century scholar’s stone in the museum’s China Gallery, then take in Zhan’s Artificial Rock #133—the experience may challenge you to think about tradition, and how our notions of it continue to evolve in the contemporary world.


Part of the collection of museum trustee and ceramic artist Taiji Terasaki and his wife, Naoko, the rocks will be on view at the museum until May 15, when they will be moved to their Wailupe home.

  Zhan Wang


Museum staffers are thrilled to see many artists who have shown at the museum being included in the biennial.


Sean Connelly had his installation Land Division in our Arts of Hawai‘i Gallery in 2014, and Lynne Yamamoto’s House for Listening to Rain was a hit at Spalding House in 2011. Now for the biennial, the artists (both of whom are from Hawai‘i and now live in Massachusetts) have created new, neighboring structures at Foster Botanical Garden. Connelly’s Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s) is a contemplation on contemporary building materials (do we really need steel on the island?) while Yamamoto’s Borrowed Time will make you nostalgic with her miniature recreation of the entrance of a classic old Honolulu bungalow—some of which can still be found in the botanical garden’s neighborhood. How long are they for this world?

  Honolulu Museum of Art installation

Sean Connelly’s Thatch Assembly with Rocks (2060s)


And Kaili Chun, who with Hongtao Zhou has the epic installation Net_work in the museum’s current Artists of Hawai‘i 2017, has two works included in the biennial—her new work Hulali I Ka Lā hanging from the ceiling of the Hawai‘i Prince Hotel and Veritas II on the grounds of Bishop Museum.


It’s great to see Hawai‘i artists’ work alongside work by artists from throughout the Pacific and Asia. The biennial frames a larger art conversation that we can all be a part of. Print out the list of venues and go on a great art scavenger hunt throughout the city—everything is on view through May 8.



Lesa GriffithLesa Griffith is director of communications at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Born in Honolulu, one of her early seminal art experiences was at the Honolulu Museum of Art, when on a field trip her high school art history teacher pointed out that the ermine cape in Whistler’s Portrait of Lady Meux was not just a cape—it was visual signage leading viewers’ eyes through the painting.