The Honolulu Museum of Art's Colorful Renovation

New Art: The Honolulu Museum of Art finishes a dramatic, colorful renovation.
The Honolulu Museum of Arts

Photos Courtesy of Honolulu Museum of Arts

The past two years have been a time of renewal and reinvention for the Honolulu Museum of Art, and it recently unveiled the last of 10 galleries of European and American art that have been reimagined and remixed. If you haven’t been to the Museum in awhile, you might be surprised at how much has changed.

Curator Theresa Papanikolas oversaw the project, removing furniture, painting walls in bold new colors and swapping out artwork for sculpture and paper pieces in the museum’s archives that had never seen the light of day. The result showcases the collection in new, visually arresting ways.

“I’m especially happy with the new displays of prints and drawings,” says Papanikolas. “To make sure this important part of the collection is always represented, I dedicated space in key galleries specifically for temporary rotations of works on paper.”

We asked Papanikolas to walk us through the new galleries and point out the highlights.

The 20th-Century Galleries

Before: Modernist paintings and sculptures were displayed alongside 19th-century European art or as part of late 20th-century modernism.

Now: These pieces now have their own dedicated space in two galleries. Works by Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Robert Delaunay take their place alongside works by Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant, to explore Cubism’s manifestations in the early 20th century.

Highlights: Giorgio de Chirico and Yves Tanguy’s surrealist paintings, as well as three scenes of ‘Iao Valley by the American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who was invited to Hawai‘i by the Dole Company in 1939 to create images for their print advertisements.

The Portraiture Room

Before: This room showcased only Georgian furniture and decorative arts.

Now: The museum’s portraits have their own gallery—one of two thematic spaces in the new configuration. (The second is the Antiquity and the Body gallery.)

Highlights: Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Gov. John Brooks, James McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Lady Meux and Alice Neel’s portrait of the sculptor Marisol.

The 19th-century gallery

Before: 18th-century French painting, sculpture and decorative arts.

Now: Impressionist and postimpressionist masterpieces are placed in a new, beautiful galley with high ceilings and abundant natural light.

Highlights: Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and Paul Gauguin’s Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach. This month, Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield returns from the Denver Art Museum to this space.

The 18th-century gallery

Before: Pre-Papanikolas, this room showcased 17th-century art.

Now: 18th-century works by Italian landscape painters, American sculptors and Rococo masters are on view in a jewellike display.

Highlights: A floor-to-ceiling porcelain display, selected and designed by curatorial assistant Amber Ludwig and the museum’s installation crew.

The 17th-century gallery

Before: This room displayed medieval arts.

Now: Pierre Mignard’s Children of the Duc de Bouillon is joined by Jan van Goyen’s River Scene, a new acquisition that recently underwent conservation.

Highlights: East meets West in this gallery, with a still life by the Dutch painter Abraham van Beyeren and a related plate from the museum’s collection of Ming Dynasty porcelain.