O‘ahu Museum Ideas: Have a Picnic in Front of Moving Art at HoMA and Spalding House
The Honolulu Museum of Art is a treasure trove of Asian, European, Hawaiian, American and contemporary art. It houses more than 10,000 ukiyo-e woodblock prints, including “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” by Hokusai, as well as works by Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Georgia O’Keeffe. Even the ceiling displays works of art—look up near the Doris Duke Theatre and you’ll find Dale Chihuly’s blown-glass sculpture, “Reef.”
Many know the history of HoMA: Founded by Anna Rice Cooke, the Honolulu Academy of Arts was built at the site of her former home on Beretania Street. In 2012, The Contemporary Museum at Spalding House, built by Cooke, merged with the academy to create the Honolulu Museum of Art.
“We have over 60,000 works of art,” says Sean O’Harrow, director of HoMA since 2017. He’s the first director of the museum to have been raised in Hawai‘i, giving him a unique understanding of sense of place to go along with his degrees from Harvard and Cambridge and experiences working at other museums around the country. “The biggest change is shifting our museum strategy to an emphasis on contemporary and Hawai‘i art,” he says.
But besides world-famous pieces like Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Caress” (O’Harrow’s favorite), the museum holds some surprises, such as interactive exhibits. At Spalding House, the Cades Pavilion exclusively houses David Hockney’s original stage designs for L’enfant et les sortilèges. “Hockney is an extremely renowned British artist whose artwork in our Spalding House museum is his interpretation of a set design he made for the Metropolitan Opera. You can actually walk within the art itself,” O’Harrow says. The Spalding House Café also offers a picnic-basket lunch and mats so you can eat on the lawn. The garden is larger than you might expect, with fantastical bridges and pathways to explore, as well as moving outdoor sculptures.
Spalding House itself is a bit of a secret, tucked away on Makiki Heights; HoMA admission covers both locations and a free shuttle runs between the two every Tuesday. It has five galleries in addition to the Cades Pavilion and outdoor Surface Gallery.
Make the most of your visit by downloading the free Honolulu Museum of Art app to see what’s on view, purchase event tickets, listen to audio tours, download special offers (such as 50 percent off mimosas at the main campus café’s Sunday brunch) and listen to playlists inspired by the exhibitions. And don’t forget to go upstairs in the Beretania Street building: The second floor of the Victoria Street side showcases arts of Hawai‘i, the Philippines, Pacific Islands and 18th– to 20th-century American art.
“The biggest change is shifting our museum strategy to an emphasis on contemporary and Hawai‘i art.” – Sean O’Harrow
Arrive early for ARTafterDARK, 6 to 9 p.m. on the last Friday of the month through October. You can grab your drink, food and wander leisurely through the exhibits before the bigger crowds arrive. Admission is $25; free for members.
Go for Brunch on Sunday. The cafe launched its Sunday-only menu this year.
The third Sunday of the month is Bank of Hawai‘i Family Sunday, which comes with free admission, keiki-friendly programs, art activities and a typically a big crowd. Kids activities also take place at Spalding House.
Parking on Beretania Street right in front of the museum is free on Sundays. Parking in the Kīna‘u Street lot is free on weekends.
Doris Duke Theatre regularly hosts panel discussions, presentations, performances and films, including the annual Surf Film Festival, African-American Film Festival, Jewish Film Festival and HI Sk8 Films Shorts Showcase.
Info Main campus, 900 S. Beretania St.; Spalding House, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive; (808) 532-8700, honolulumuseum.org
Hours Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays
Admission $20 general; $10 kama‘āina; free for those 18 and under. Admission is free the first Wednesday of every month, as well as every July 31 (Restoration Day)
Size 175,000 square feet
Annual visitors 280,000
Fun fact The Robert Allerton Art Library in the Beretania Street building, home to 55,000 books, periodicals and more, is open every Wednesday and by appointment. Admission is free.
Classes The Honolulu Museum of Art School at the Linekona building, 1111 Victoria St., holds studio classes for adults and children, workshops with visiting artists and exhibitions. Classes include drawing and painting, ceramics, woodworking, jewelry-making, photography and more.