The museum mourns the loss of a great man and philanthropist, Henry B. Clark, Jr., who died on May 30 at the age of 101. The Harvard Business School graduate and former U.S. Navy officer who went on to be chairman of Castle & Cooke became a museum trustee in 1974. He served on the board for 34 years, 16 of them as chairman, and from 2008 he was a trustee emeritus. He was a gentlemanly, astute card in the boardroom and a consummate collector—some of the museum’s most significant works were gifts from Henry and his wives—artist Geraldine, who died in 1992, and Charlotte, who died in 2015. (Pictured above is Henry and Gerry at the museum in 1982, with the Henry Moore sculpture he donated in 1977.)
In 2015, the museum celebrated his 100th birthday by making Oct. 8 Henry B. Clark Day and offered free admission. From Kahala Nui, Henry sent word that he was tickled by the gesture. It was the least the museum could for an extraordinary man who has done so much for the Honolulu Museum of Art and, in turn, for all of us who live in the islands.
One of Clark’s mantras was, “Works of art should not be possessions by just one or two but shared by many”—and it is one he lived by. It is thanks to him that we in Honolulu are able to experience Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, Henry Moore’s bronze Working Model for Stone Memorial, and Paul Cézanne’s oil on canvas A Copse any day we want. He was also a strong supporter of island artists. Since 1961, he donated 307 works of art to the museum, ranging from the Bacon self-portrait to a stoneware plate by Hawai‘i artist Kauka de Silva. His very first gift was a watercolor of irises painted by Foujita Tsouguharu.
“The European and American art collection has benefited incredibly from Mr. Clark’s generosity,” says Theresa Papanikolas, curator of European and American art and deputy director of art and programs. “In addition to the Francis Bacon and the Henry Moore, he has made it possible for the museum to acquire work by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Ansel Adams, Romare Beardon, and many other major modernist artists. It is collectors like Mr. Clark—dedicated, supportive, and savvy—who help good museums become truly great ones.”
In addition, over the years Clark has donated generously to the museum in support of the Annual Fund, to finance important exhibitions, to pay for air conditioning for the Art School—the list is extensive. He also chaired the campaign to transform the city-owned Linekona building into the museum’s Art School—that’s why you can see his picture in the lobby. Clark made his first donation to the museum in 1947, and over the next six decades donated more than $5 million, in addition to his art gifts.
“Henry has been indispensable to the museum, lending his business acumen and philanthropy for more than 30 years,” says museum trustee Lynne Johnson, who, like Clark, served as chair.
Clark was elected to the museum’s board of trustees in 1974, when he was an executive with Castle & Cooke, and served as chairman of the board from 1981 to 1997—a fruitful time at the museum. He retired as chairman of Castle & Cooke in 1985.
Clark struck a tall, dashing figure at the museum and brought wit and wisdom to board meetings. And the museum is just one of the organizations that Clark championed. He served on the boards of the Mission Houses Museum, Hanahauoli School, Honolulu Symphony Society, Aloha United Way, YMCA, and the Palolo Chinese Home for the Elderly.
“Henry B. Clark was invaluable in leading the museum as chair of the board and as the driving force behind our Art School,” says Honolulu Museum of Art director Sean O’Harrow. “Today every year thousands of children and adults can experience singular works of art and also make their own art thanks to Henry’s passion and vision.”