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Courtesy of Honolulu Biennial | Andrew Binkley Stone Cloud

Feb 20, 2017

Painting A New Chapter

Tens of thousands of years ago, illuminated only by the flicker of a nearby fire, man began interpreting his own existence by painting what he knew upon the walls of a cave.

Horses, human hands, bison, birds, and archers were meticulously scrawled in caves across Europe and Africa, some dating as far back as 70,000 years. In the ensuing time—despite plagues, wars, and catastrophes—mankind has continued to make art, to create, and to reimagine. Art, more specifically our innate ability to think abstractly, helps makes us human. Art defines us. It's with that profound love of art in mind that we're thrilled to introduce you to a sweeping art exhibit, the inaugural Honolulu Biennial, that has the potential to reshape the entire city.


So what exactly is a biennial, you ask? As its name implies, biennials (held every two years) are a series of art exhibits, often extending for months, that are spread across an entire city. While other international cities have played hosts to their own biennials (Sydney, Sao Paulo, and Venice are among the most storied) Honolulu hasn't been traditionally regarded as a haven for contemporary art. That's changing. "There's an energy here," Cristiano Cairati, a collector based in New York and in Honolulu told the New York Times. "It's the same energy of endless possibilities that New York had in the late '80s and '90s, when you could be and do anything."

IBM Building, Ward Village | Yayoi Kusama

Exhibits like Pow! Wow! Hawaii and a slew of other openings have helped energize and grow an entire community, and the forthcoming biennial has the potential to reshape Hawai'i into a 21st-century hub for the art world, injecting countless creativity back into the city in the process. Featuring more than 30 artists practicing a variety of mediums, the biennial will include shows at the Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu Hale, the IBM Building, the Honolulu Museum of Art and a myriad of other venues. "Our goal is highlight our tremendous local talent as well as bring in national and international contemporary artists that locally people don't get access to," said Isabella Hughes, one of the Honolulu Biennial's founders.


Billed under the tagline Middle of Now | Here, the event will run from March 8 to May 8, 2017. Curating the art for the exhibit are Fumio Nanjo, Director of Tokyo's Mori Art Museum and Ngahiraka Mason of the Auckland Art Gallery, two experts with decades of experience behind them.

"The biennial showcases the diversity of ideas, art, and culture from the people who live today throughout the places connected by the Pacific Ocean. It will include contemporary art from Hawaiʻi, the Pacific Islands, Asia, North America, Australia, and New Zealand," says Nanjo and Mason. "By exhibiting the work of artists from all around this vast region, Honolulu Biennial 2017 shines a spotlight on the collective artistic vision from this important and dynamic Pacific neighborhood."

As a teaser for the biennial, Ward Village's iconic IBM Building recently played host to a pre-event-15-piece installation entitled "Footprints of Life" featuring the work of Yayoi Kusama. Arguably the world's most popular living artists, Kusama's work drew throngs of art enthusiasts and students, all the while engaging with the local community in a variety of interactive classes centered around the installation. Other international artists included in the biennial include Korea's famed Choi Jeong Hwa and Philippine / Australian artists Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan to name just a few. There will also be a plethora of local artist, including Charlton Kupa'a Hee and Chris Ritson, heavily featured as well.

As a testament to the power of art to reshape cities, Hawai'i Senator Brian Taniguchi recently introduced a bill supporting the Honolulu Biennial in the hope that the event becomes a mainstay in the state with positive creative, educational, and economic benefits for the people of Hawai'i. "I'm hoping this event is the start of showcasing the art community here in Hawai'i to the rest of the world," he told Hawaii Public Radio. "And I also hope we provide our citizens with some exposure to international arts as well."

To learn more about the biennial, or purchase tickets to exhibits, please go to HonoluluBiennial.org.

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