Sunday, February 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 4, 2001

Art Review
Art academy expansion to benefit public

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Come May, nothing at the Honolulu Academy of Arts will be quite the same. The familiar museum at 900 S. Beretania St. will keep its name and outward appearance, but otherwise the public will essentially be the beneficiaries of a new institution.

Not only will there be more museum - a lot more - but the changes come with the promise of expanded appeal and convenience.

Clothing reflects tradition in Asia

Family Ties in Asian Textiles
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Through Feb. 18

Clothing worn in the traditional societies of 19th- and 20th-century China and Japan provides a fascinating glimpse of the life and culture of those societies. The Honolulu Academy of Arts has mounted a show of Chinese and Japanese textiles, focusing primarily on clothing worn by children. On view are jackets, hats, footwear, aprons, robes and kimonos that were worn for everyday and ceremonial events. The exhibition is drawn from the Christensen Fund textile collection, which is on permanent loan to the academy.

— Virginia Wageman

Art photos by Shuzo Uemoto • Honolulu Academy of Arts

This child’s hat, also from the Guizhou province, features a delightful tiger image that is intended to frighten off evil spirits. Wearing such a hat was supposed to protect a child from many diseases.

A girl living in China’s Guizhou province in the 1940s would have worn a jacket like this for festive occasions, when she would have the opportunity to meet her future husband.

Elegant ceremonial kimonos such as this one, dating from 1920-40, were worn by Japanese infants on their first visit to a shrine. Today, newborn babies continue to be brought to shrines wearing fancy kimonos.

There will be a new Garden Cafe and Gift Shop, each twice the size of the previous versions. But the main attraction will be two expansive, 4,000-square-foot galleries designed to be configured in virtually unlimited fashion.

One gallery will handle changing exhibits. The other will be the permanent location of "Hawaii and Its People," an Island cultural art collection considered to be the finest of its kind.

Coupled with recently completed renovations, the academy’s expanded design should come as a pleasant surprise, not only in its appearance, but in its potential for staging events and activities that previously were impractical or not possible.

In 1998, the academy launched its Renaissance Campaign, a three-year, $25 million master plan intended to upgrade the museum’s Asian wing and four galleries in the East Meets West sections, and to create a brand-new Education Center.

The 10,000-square-foot Luce Pavilion Complex, the final and most ambitious component of the entire campaign, is scheduled to open in three months. The academy is planning a series of grand-opening exhibits to mark the occasion, including a free open house, on May 13.

The new Henry R. Luce Wing connects to the existing Clare Boothe Luce Wing, location of the Honolulu Academy theater. Clare Boothe Luce, the late politician, playwright and U.S. ambassador, was a Hawaii resident and patron of the local arts. Her husband, Henry R. Luce, who died in 1967, was a noted editor and founder of Time, Life and Fortune magazines.

The Henry Luce Foundation was among the major donors to the new $8.5 million, two-story structure, which adds an extra 10,000 square feet of space to the museum, plus thousands of square feet of additional storage in the building’s basement.

The excitement for academy staff includes behind-the-scenes aspects that will allow the museum to play host to numerous evening events, larger traveling exhibits, and to present more of the academy’s collection than has ever been seen before.

"We have 37,000 pieces, and at any given time only about 10 percent of what we have is on display," said Charlie Aldinger, public relations director.

That is about to change. In addition to new gallery space, the Luce Pavilion Complex will free up more than 5,000 square feet in the museum’s historic Territorial-style main building, space that will also be used to exhibit collection art.

Furthermore, according to John Brassel, chief of security, the expanded storage space beneath the Luce Pavilion Complex, plus a new freight elevator system, means the academy can accommodate changing exhibits with better security.

In the past, traveling exhibits had to be displayed in the main museum building itself. Now that they will be in the new wing, the academy can show them during times when the main museum building is locked up.

"If we want to, we will be able to have nothing open except the new gallery," Brassel said. "We have a separate entrance off of that building, so, we could, say, shut down the alarm system to the gallery, have it open and keep everything else in the museum closed."

This opens up all sorts of possibilities. For example, academy theatergoers could attend a reception in the Garden Cafe following a movie, something that previously would have been logistically difficult due to the security involved.

Ultimately, the idea behind the Renaissance Campaign is to offer visitors a museum that’s perpetually new, different and vibrant.

At the same time, the academy won’t lose its familiar feel. Paintings by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Cezanne, for example, will remain in their usual main building spots.

Meanwhile, the new galleries can be reconfigured frequently to focus attention on various aspects of what’s on exhibit.

"This will enable us to change out the shows more frequently," Aldinger said. "This won’t be static, like the museums of the past. Now, we will be able to change everything anytime."

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