Honolulu Biennial 2019: what to see and where

As the Honolulu Biennial kicks off this spring, the Aloha State continues to paint itself onto the art world map

By Helen Warwick
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:21 BST
Misaki Kawai, Arty, 2012
Photograph by Misaki Kawai and Justin Waldron

Hawaii’s vibrant arts scene comes to the fore once again this year as the Honolulu Biennial 2019 rolls back into town. Running until 5 May, various superstars and new talent from the art world will descend on the palm-peppered isles, stepping up the artistic offerings with a colourful roster of installations, exhibitions and workshops.

One of the most celebrated names making an appearance at the second edition of the Biennial is Nicholas Galanin, whose headline-grabbing We Dreamt Deaf will be on show — the large-scale, taxidermy polar bear, dragging its hind legs is a symbol of survival ‘in spite of continuing cultural and environmental threats’. Over at the city’s Foster Botanical Garden, meanwhile, local artist Leland Miyano has crafted a double-hulled canoe from botanical materials gathered by volunteers, while Mexican visual artist Abraham Cruzvillegas explores the relationship of outdoor and indoor life in the Pacific with a series of sculptures dotted around Honolulu. The lion’s share of the works will be installed at the Biennial’s pumping heart, The Hub at Ward Village, where heavyweights in the art world will be focusing on digital media, all inspired by the event’s over-arching theme of To Make Wrong/Right/Now.

Although the Biennial is celebrating art from across the Pacific region, Hawaii is also emerging as a hotbed of local artistic talent. A new wave of artists has put down roots on the islands, showcasing works in local galleries — try the family-run Nohea Gallery, with its collection of local arts and crafts, and the Paia Contemporary Gallery for abstract contemporary pieces.

Surrounded by the Pacific, Hawaii is also a place where art and the ocean are deeply connected. At the Maui Ocean Center, the Humpbacks of Hawaii exhibition showcases the mysterious world of whales, from their lullaby-like song to their great migration from the North Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands, with an immersive virtual encounter at the new 3D Sphere theatre.  

Published in the April 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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