Happy holidays from me and the entire staff at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I want to thank everyone for their valuable support this past year, which has been a good one.
As a parent of a three year old, I am keenly interested in how children encounter works of art and what they find of interest. Often what I think is great doesn’t get a glance from our daughter. On the other hand, she points out works that I realize deserve a closer look. At the end of the day, together we are learning to see the world from new perspectives. Seeing things in a new light is one of the most valuable skills that we can learn from great works of art. One of the joys of working at a museum with an encyclopedic collection is the access to things I don’t understand or yet appreciate—no matter how hard I work to learn, there is always something more to know.
And now on view are a lot of new things to learn from. Three exhibitions of recent acquisitions showcase the best works given to or purchased by the museum for its permanent collection. What catches my attention among these works? I have been very much taken with a parka make by the Yup’ik people who live near the Arctic Circle. Made of seal gut, it is ingeniously constructed and transcendentally beautiful. It seems light and fragile yet it protected kayak-paddling hunters from the elements in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. I also have a soft spot for our new Roy Lichtenstein, donated by Thurston and Sharon Twigg-Smith. It is bold and graphic, the epitome of American Pop Art, yet, as the title suggests, it is actually an image of a woman contemplating a simple yellow cup. As I contemplate this wall sculpture, the woman in the work of art does the same and somehow I become part of the art, too. Two smaller exhibitions are also a result of the generosity of donors from the mainland—Ruth and David Waterbury’s gift of turned wood by contemporary masters and Mark and Jane Nathanson’s group of photographs by such masters as Man Ray. My hope is that among these recent acquisitions you will find something to love (and that challenges you).
Among the most challenging exhibitions ever presented at the museum is Modern Love. Intended only for adult audiences, this exhibition explores gender and sexuality in modern Japan. It is the final installment of our three-part series on shunga and the curators, Shawn Eichman and Stephen Salel have also written a major book on the subject. Published by Skira/Rizzoli, this handsome volume is a good example of how the museum explores new areas of scholarship. (it’s available in the Museum Shop!)
Finally, I want to say that the museum often surprises and delights me in unexpected ways. The other day I was going to a meeting at the Art School and I chanced upon our security officer Ram BK watching the monitors while playing a Nepalese flute beautifully. The scene once again gave me such appreciation for our dedicated and creative staff.
Again, we at the museum wish you a wonderful holiday season—come and visit us and refresh yourself with art during this time of reflection and renewal.