Honolulu Museum of Art – home at HOMA

Honolulu Museum of Art
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Honolulu Museum of Art – home at HOMA

We’re happy to report that the HAT Blog visited the Honolulu Museum of Art (HOMA in brief) over the weekend. We’re also ashamed to confess that we haven’t been there in years. We’re glad we returned to learn about what’s new at HoMA, what’s ongoing, and what is in store for the future of the venerable institution. There’s a lot.

I ran into an old friend recently, Josh, who is among a handful of individuals who led the charge to create space for the flourishing of the arts and indie music in Chinatown. I was not surprised to learn that he is the manager at the HOMA Café + Coffee Bar.

On Friday, I made good on a promise to visit him at the café on a lunch date with my wife. I had a delicious roast turkey sandwich with cranberry relish and washed it down with a Kona Brewing selection. My wife had the special, a soba noodle with mahi mahi affair that she pretty much inhaled, and a glass of cabernet sauvignon. The menu and service at the café is superb, alone worth a visit to HOMA.

Casual atmosphere, gourmet menu at HOMA Cafe + Coffee Bar.

Honolulu Museum of Art history

The Honolulu Museum of Art was “chartered” (not really sure what that means) in 1923 and opened its doors to the public in 1927 by Anna Rice Cooke as the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The child of a wealthy missionary family, she was born in 1853. The family home she grew up in was located on the site now home to HOMA. It was and remains Hawaii’s first visual arts museum.

The original building was designed by famed architect Bertram Goodhue, who died before its completion. Goodhue is noted for his adoption of the Mediterranean and Spanish Revival styles, which can be seen in other historic buildings of his design in Hawaii, including the C. Brewer Building in the heart of Downtown Honolulu.

Honolulu Museum of Art courtyard
Honolulu Museum of Art’s unique architecture dates back to 1927.

HOMA’s history of exhibitions is long and fascinating. It was called “the finest small museum in the United States” by former National Gallery of Art Director J. Carter Brown (thanks, Wikipedia!). Its collection of ancient and modern Asian arts and artifacts is extensive and impressive. HOMA is also home to works by legendary artists that include Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Georgia O’Keefe, Diego Rivera, and Eugene Delacroix. Heady stuff.

The museum added several pavilions and complexes over the decades following its construction which are now home to permanent and visiting exhibits. The Doris Duke Theater features movies, concerts, lectures and other presentations that feature unique aspects of the arts and artists of Hawaii.

Honolulu Museum of Art reflecting pool visitors
Reflecting at a reflecting pool at HoMA.

HOMA now

There are currently six separate exhibits on display at HOMA. All are remarkable and profoundly engaging on their own terms, and the work of the curators and designers there do a great service to the works on offer and for the patrons that visit them.

We took our time strolling through the Awakening exhibit (open until September 10) by British artist Rebecca Louise Law. It’s an immersive and ethereal experience, so large in scale that it takes up two of HOMA’s galleries. It features countless thousands of Hawaii blossoms and leads visitors along a path that winds its way through hanging flowers and vegetation. It’s otherworldly, hypnotic, and deeply calming. It is also redolent with the fragrance of various dried vegetation, which is why there is an advisory about “potential allergens” at the exhibit’s entrance. I found it delightful.

Honolulu Museum of Art "Awakening" exhibit
HoMA’s “Awakening” exhibit.

HOMA’s Director of Communication Maggie Engebretson stopped by our table at lunch to talk about goings-on at the museum. She spoke of “HOMA Nights” which sees the museum stay open late on Fridays and Saturdays to host live musicians and deejays and welcome the “pau hana” after-work crowd of art lovers with cocktails, beer, and wine. There are also interactive programs for visitors of all ages. Engebretson was also excited to tell us about the complete “reimagining” of HOMA’s famous Arts of Hawaii Gallery, a year-long project that will re-open this month.

Honolulu Museum of Art sculpture of a figure with pet
A resident at HoMA.

There is a whole lot going on at the Honolulu Museum of Art on any given day. Between its outreach programs, workshops, classes, lectures, and visiting and ongoing exhibits, it’s easy to make a day (and part of a Friday or Saturday night) at the museum. It is the epicenter of the arts in Honolulu, and an essential stop for visiting fans of arts and culture.