HoMA’s highly anticipated exhibition 30 Americans highlights works by 30 contemporary artists who share a connection through their African American cultural heritage. The presentation promises to be one of the most dynamic shows ever to hit the local art scene when it debuts in Hawai‘i next month. Since premiering for the first time nearly 12 years ago in Miami, HoMA will be the travelling exhibition’s 18th stop on its nationwide tour, and is one of the most viewed–and talked about–exhibitions of its kind.

“The fact that 30 Americans has influenced the communities, the cultures and the conversations in the cities it has toured really demonstrates why we felt it was so important that it come to Hawai‘i,” said Katherine Love, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art. “It is important for an art institution like HoMA to exhibit powerful work that speaks to current issues of the day; to provide a forum for discussion of topics that may be controversial; and to encourage understanding by listening to voices that have historically been sidelined.”

Conceived by the Rubell Museum in Miami, Florida, and drawn entirely from their renowned collection, the exhibition has traveled across the United States to great acclaim. HoMA’s presentation features 40 objects carefully selected for our venue, and installed throughout 8,000 square feet of gallery space. Works in painting, sculpture, installation, photography, and video bring focus to timely, challenging, and thought-provoking issues related to racial, ethnic, and gender identity; representation of the body; and the significance of cultural heritage and history.

The exhibition includes some of the most recognized and influential figures in the art world from the past four decades, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Lorna Simpson, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kehinde Wiley. These artists create compelling works that refuse to play it safe, taking risks with pieces that are bold, vibrant, provocative, and sometimes confrontational.

The wide appeal of the artists, works and themes represented in 30 Americans has not only influenced the cities it has toured and the audiences who have had the great fortune to experience it—the popularity of the exhibition has also had an effect on celebrities and mainstream media. According to art historian Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw in an essay looking at the wide-ranging effects both within the art world and in popular culture at large: “In addition to changes in the art market and the collecting habits of hip-hop royalty, the influence of 30 Americans can be seen in the visually prominent yet entirely fictional collection of art owned by the music mogul Lucious Lyon on the Fox television show Empire. The artworks shown in the background of scenes present viewers with a who’s who from the roster of 30 Americans.”

The presentation of 30 Americans in Hawai‛i brings a unique, multicultural perspective to themes explored in the exhibition. “HoMA has developed a slate of public programs in consultation with community members, designed to encourage thoughtful feedback and provide a venue for further discussion around building respect for diversity within our interconnected global world,” said Love. “We’re really excited to welcome 30 Americans to Hawai‘i and make history by introducing the type of art, themes and conversations that will increasingly become an expectation of museums in the future.”

30 Americans opens at HoMA on February 22.



Nick Cave (b.1959)
Soundsuit, 2008
Fabric, fiberglass and metal.
Courtesy Rubell Museum, Miami
© Nick Cave