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Around the World in 80 at Academy of Arts

by Yvonne Lozano, staff writer


Vincent Van Gogh once said: “I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.”

Indeed he was right. Not only is he one of the most revered artists of his time, his textured paintings can be seen in museums around the world. Don’t have the cash for a worldwide trip? Then stop and take a look at an original Van Gogh at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. His painting, Wheat Field, hangs in the first gallery along with other 19th- and 20th-century European paintings and sculptures.


The Honolulu Academy of Arts holds over 37,000 works of art in its permanent collection, each one reflecting the period in which it was created. Paintings and sculptures surround the hollowed galleries of the museum, yet visitors still has plenty of space to absorb the pieces that they are viewing. The museum offers many different galleries, each taking the visitor to a different time period or a different country.

The Italian Renaissance Art Gallery walls display portraits and paintings of religious imagery many of which depict the Madonna and Child, a widely used image of the Renaissance. The gallery is so well designed that nature contributes as sunlight illuminates the exhibit, spilling through the open doors from the Mediterranean Courtyard just outside. The trickling water fountain in the courtyard provides a serene atmosphere as its sound echoes softly off the wall and fills the surrounding galleries, accompanying visitors as they move from room to room.

The Italian Renaissance Gallery is just one of many galleries to visit while in the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which has renovated old wings and added new wings since 1998. The East meets West reopened in November 1999. New galleries also opened for the arts of Korea, India, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia soon after. In 2003, a gallery for the art of the Philippines also opened.

Catch a guided tour throughout the collection or hop on one of the Academy’s mini coaches and catch a tour of Shangri La, the former estate of Doris Duke, which now houses her extensive Islamic Art collection. Advance reservations are preferred, but same-day reservations may be available.

The former Academy Theatre has also been renovated and reopened in July 2002 under the new name, The Doris Duke Theatre at the Academy. The theatre hosts movies, musical performances, and lectures.

The Honolulu Academy of Arts started out as a dream of Anna Rice Cooke, the daughter of New England missionaries, who was raised on Kaua‘i. According to the Academy’s brochure, she wanted “a museum that reflected the unique attributes of Hawai‘i’s multicultural makeup.” She also wanted the museum to be an open environment to reflect Hawai‘i’s own natural beauty and climate.
After settling on O‘ahu with her husband, Charles Montague Cook, they amassed a large art collection which they quickly outgrew. She and her daughter Alice, her daughter-in-law Dagmar, and Mrs. Isaac Cox, an art and drama teacher, catalogued the collection with the intent of opening an art museum. The Cookes donated their land on Beretania Street for the museum, which opened on April 8, 1927.

Over the years, the Academy has become one of Hawai‘i’s important resources of art. The art throughout the museum helps the viewer take a small peek into a world one only reads about in history books, and some pieces have even survived centuries. Van Gogh may not have sold many paintings in his time, but did he dream his paintings would be enjoyed by many art enthusiasts centuries later? The Honolulu Academy of Arts continues Anna Rice Cooke’s dream by preserving and improving the museum, with temporary art exhibits and its large permanent collection, which will be enjoyed for many generations now and in the future.

General admission to the Academy is $7, $4 for students with ID. The first Wednesday of every month is free. For more information on the Honolulu Academy of Arts visit or call 532-8700.


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