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Exploring The Honolulu Museum Of Art

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Because there is more to Hawaii than Pineapples and Hula.

When you think of Waikiki do you think of Vincent van Gogh or Henri Matisse? I don’t think so. You think of beaches, surfing and Hula. There is lots more to Hawaii than the fabulous images on postcards we send back to family and friends though, does anyone still send postcards? I was enjoying my second day on Oahu and since the clouds had come in and given us a bit of shade I decided to check out the Honolulu Museum Of Art. The museum was started in 1927 by Anna Rice Cooke with 500 works of art and today it boasts over 50,000 pieces, some of which date back over 5,000 years ago. With a collection that large I think an afternoon at the Honolulu Museum Of Art is well in order. A little arts & culture never hurt anyone, especially during 30 Days In Hawaii.

Honolulu Museum Of Art

Town Hall - Do you look legit

Where to start? How about with with Antiquity. There is an entire exhibit dedicated to ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts. There is everything from bronze statues, to stone reliefs to a mosaic tile floor from a villa in ancient Turkey. Very cool. I especially loved the Egyptian relief on limestone that is believed to be from 2200 BC.

The Antiquity exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Femal Figure from Cycladic 2400 BC the Honolulu Museum of Art

Roman relief of Hercules at the Honolulu Museum of Art

mosaic tile floor from ancient Turkey

ancient egyptian relief on Limestone at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Moving on from Antiquity we advance a few hundred years to ancient Asia. This museum has a very cool collection of art reflecting Buddhism throughout the years in China. There are some small pieces and some that are taller than myself including a massive stone sculpture of Guanyin the Bodhisvatta of Compassion.

Buddhism collection

Buddhist scultpures

Guanyin the Bodhisvatta of Compassion at the Honolulu Museum of Art

There is also a fine collection of Japanese art on display. From the minute to the massive this collection includes many delicate carvings and a massive tapestry depicting an ancient Japanese battle scene. In a completely separate room there is actually a rather large collection called Tongue In Cheek which features many fine depictions of Japanese erotica. Think Kama Sutra but Japanese style. I’d show you the pictures here but they are very graphic Smile

Japanese collection at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Japanese battle scene tapesty

Japanese erotica display - Tongue in Cheek

There are also rooms dedicated to the Renaissance and of course the earlier mentioned Matisse and van Gogh.

Renaissance collection at the Honolulu Museum of Art

the Adoration of the Magi at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Henri Matisse

Vincent van Gogh - Wheat Fields

Now all of what I’ve shown you is just on the first floor. The entire second floor is dedicated to art from Africa and the America’s. It covers paintings, textiles, baskets and wooden sculptures. I easily lost an hour or so just wandering around and admiring all of it.

2nd floor collection of the Americas and African art at the Honolulu Museum of Art

Mayan sculptures

Native American baskets

African masks at the Honolulu Museum of Art

It’s an impressive museum and one that I truly enjoyed exploring. I think in total I spent about 3 hours wandering the halls and rooms in amazement at the items on display. I’d like to close with a photo of two paintings. The painting on the right is of a young King Kamehameha iii and his sister Nahi’ena’ena. It was King Kamehameha iii who ruled from 1825 to 1854 that saw Hawaii change from a feudal ruling system to a constitutional monarchy. The rich history of Hawaii is on display along with many other cultures at the Honolulu Museum of Art. You shouldn’t miss this treasure.

King Kamehameha iii and his sister Nahi’ena’ena

I’m not sure if you enjoy visiting museums. I certainly do and each museum I visit says something about the city and the people that support it. What this museum tells me is that Hawaii is a place of beauty and rich history that is torn between honouring it’s past traditions and balancing it’s place in the 21st century. I hope that rich history and traditions win out.

For the full album of pics I took you can click here:

Thank you to my friends at the Hawaii Visitor’s Bureau for helping make this adventure possible. If you want to have your own Hawaiian adventure there is no better place to start than Go Hawaii, after you read this blog series though first.

painting of a volcanic eruption on Hawaii

Dining Out For Life

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About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.

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