As we close out 2016 and ring in the New Year, the Honolulu Museum of Art has many success stories and accomplishments to toot our horn about. I guess the project that sums it all up is our Collection Highlights catalogue. Two years in the making, this book had all of our curators working together to show off the finest works in our collection. And 22 of these works can now be seen at Spalding House in HoMA Select, which features some of your all-time favorites, such as our Paul Gauguin and Lionel Walden, in a new light.

In partnership with Shangri La and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, we remodeled our Islamic Gallery. It’s now an open and airy space that showcases traditional works from the Islamic world, as well as work by contemporary artists who have been highlighted in Shangri La’s Artists-in-Residence program and pieces from HoMA’s own holdings. Highlights include the painting Memory for Forgetfulness, a recent acquisition by Reem Bassous, and the spoken word Soundshop music workshop with Shangri La artist in residence Omar Offendum, who worked with students from Aiea High School in October. It’s truly a remarkable space that introduces Shangri La and Islamic art to guests before they board the shuttle to Shangri La. I especially like the arrangement of brightly colored tiles that dominate one of the walls.

From the recently reinstalled Islamic Art Gallery

From the recently reinstalled Islamic Art Gallery

This year we also made several major acquisitions to the collection, including work by Bruce Nauman, Native Hawaiian artist Kapulani Landgraf, manga artist Takaya Miou and contemporary Chinese photographer Qiu Zhijie. The addition of works by Miou (from our first manga exhibition Visions of Gothic Angels: Manga by Takaya Miou, ending Jan. 15) and Zhijie marks our continued effort to look at contemporary art from Asia as an area of concentration for the museum. These recent acquisitions of manga update our holding in prints and works on paper. The dialogue between ukiyo-e prints and graphic novels play a vital role in Japan today.

Another highlight was having Paul Schimmel, world renowned curator and director of Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel speak about our untitled work by Lee Bontecou, as part of his lecture on his curated exhibition Destroy the Picture/Painting the Void. This important work by Bontecou was on loan as part of Schimmel’s inaugural exhibition at Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles.

Paul Schimmel stands next to Lee Bontecou's 'Untitled'

Paul Schimmel stands next to Lee Bontecou’s ‘Untitled’

Lastly, the inclusion of our installation One-Ounce Project at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress, part of programming for our exhibition Plastic Fantastic?, was a huge success. It was a pleasure to see the show grow from a concept—using contemporary art to raise awareness of plastic as a miracle material and pollutant—and collaboration between Spalding House director Aaron Padilla and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation to a communitybased program that included a beach cleanup and served as a global platform to talk about plastics and ocean pollution. On view from Feb. 3 to Oct. 2, the exhibition was visited by 4,000 students, an 18 percent increase over 2015’s two exhibitions combined.

While we had many high moments in 2016, we also experienced a few lows. We will miss some exceptional people who have helped shaped HoMA through their generosity and connoisseurship. In April we lost volunteer and collector Philip H. Roach Jr., who gave the museum a substantial gift of Japanese prints that date from the late 19th and 20th centuries. His collection continues to be exhibited in the James Michener Gallery.

Also, in July, shortly before his 95th birthday, the museum lost a visionary leader and a dear friend. Thurston Twigg-Smith was a devoted philanthropist with a passion for collecting contemporary art and giving back to his community. He brought contemporary art to Honolulu with through exhibitions at the Honolulu Advertiser’s News Building. We miss his smile and astute business acumen, though the museum has gained so much from Twigg and his wife Sharon. Highlights from their collection include works by Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Arneson that are currently on view in American Array.

Thurston Twigg-Smith in 1997 at what was then The Contemporary Museum, and is Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House today. Photo: Shuzo Uemoto

Thurston Twigg-Smith in 1997 at what was then The Contemporary Museum, and is Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House today.

Looking back at 2016, I am amazed at the quality and diversity of our exhibition programs. Earlier this year we mounted the major exhibition Art in a Time of Chaos: Masterworks from Six Dynasties China, 3rd-6th Centuries, which showcased works that have never been seen by the public before. A collaboration between The China Institute Gallery and the Nanjing Museum, this was a historical look at rare treasures including some of the earliest examples of how China’s arts had influences from India and Persia. And now on view is work by Yun-Fei Ji, who uses the traditional medium of Chinese ink painting to tell stories of contemporary China. Spanning thousands of years, these two exhibitions are the perfect bookends to reveal how the museum frames a dialogue from the past to now.

This past year, HoMA continued to work with contemporary artists. In August we brought in for a residency Hua Tunan, the internationally recognized Chinese painter known for his large-scale murals that meld traditional Chinese ink art and Western-style graffiti. His residency included a workshop with children at the Art School and a public viewing component at the main museum on the stage in Central Courtyard. With his athletic, performance-like style, he transformed a blank canvas into an animated mural of a panda and an eagle. Hua also implemented careful planning and mark-making to create an expressive landscape behind Pénélope that we continue to enjoy.

Artists in Residence Hua Tunan works finishing his mural at August Moon

Artists in Residence Hua Tunan works finishing his mural at August Moon

Island artists continued to be an important part of our art program. Hawai‘i in Design, featuring the work of 10 contemporary designers, has been on view since March (it ends March 12 in case you haven’t seen it yet). Arts of Hawai‘i curator Healoha Johnson introduced the design aesthetic as an art form and reveals how it integrates in local and global environments.

There have been so many great shows, it is hard to distill it down to a few highlight, but I will end with our 20th anniversary celebration of our partnership with First Hawaiian Bank. It’s partnerships like this that support the museum’s core mission to bring great art and people together. Celebrating 20 Years of Hawai‘i Art at First Hawaiian Bank, on view through March 17, features works by some of Hawai‘i’s premier artists whose pieces were exhibited in one of the 140 shows at the First Hawaiian Center over the last 20 years. These works now form First Hawaiian Bank’s corporate collection, which was purchased or acquired through the exhibitions curated by HoMA. It is wonderful to see the bank’s commitment to making Hawai‘i-based art accessible to people of all walks of life.

From 'Celebrating 20 Years of Hawai‘i Art at First Hawaiian Center,' on view through March 17

From ‘Celebrating 20 Years of Hawai‘i Art at First Hawaiian Center’

By the numbers the museum had an excellent year. We experienced a significant increase in our membership, with more than 5,500 people signing up or renewing at ARTafterDARK alone—a 38 percent increase over 2015. The museum saw more than 300,000 visitors walk through its gates, more than 20,000 children on school tours, and more than 4,000 students took classes at the Art School. 

With a year of accomplishments and milestones under our belt—many of them thanks to supporters like you—please join me in welcoming Sean O’Harrow to the museum on Jan. 3, 2017. The next enewsletter will include his first greeting to all of you.

It has been my pleasure to serve as interim director, and I look forward to resuming my position as deputy director of operations and administration. Thank you again for the support and all the best for a very healthy and happy New Year!