The holidays are a time to reflect, and lately I’ve been thinking about how every day I am reminded of ways the Honolulu Museum of Art is connected to the rest of the world.
On a warm October morning, members of the Tlingit people from the village of Klawock on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, arrived for a ceremony marking the repatriation of a totem pole that has been in the museum collection since 1981. The ceremony ensured that the 19th-century object, which was taken illegally from Prince of Wales Island years ago, could be returned safely to Alaska. During the ceremony, there was a palpable sense that we shared much with our guests.
Tlingit master carver Jonathan Rowan, Klawock tribal administrator Lawrence Armour, and Klawock Cooperative Association council member Eva Rowan presented the museum with a surprise gift—a large cedar box that Jonthan made and painted with Tlingit symbols (pictured above). The museum now has a special, positive connection to a village of 800 people in Alaska where ancient traditions and modern life intersect. You can now see this beautiful box in the Gallery of the Art of the Americas.
The current exhibition Harajuku: Tokyo Street Fashion also links us to contemporary culture—this time in the world’s largest city. While the feeling of this exploration of the global influence of Japanese street looks is a strange mix of cute and creepy, what emerges is the striking ability of young Japanese to combine cultural influences from around the world. The mixing of aesthetics—ranging from 18th-century French fashion to Alice in Wonderland to Hello Kitty—creates a new sensibility. The exhibition shows how fun, interconnected, and complex the world can be.
As 2015 comes to a close, I want to thank not only all of you, but also our extraordinary staff.