by smmmarti guide
August 23, 2003
Mrs. Charles Montague Cooke, the same woman who bequeathed her Berentania estate to the Honolulu Academy of Arts years earlier, built this estate in 1925. Later, her daughter donated it as an annex to the Academy. At one point it was considered for development, but the Twigg-Smith family offered the land in 1986 as the site of Hawaii’s sole Contemporary Museum of Art.
The permanent collection includes 1,600 impressive pieces including works by Andy Warhol, Robert Graham and Joseph Seigenthaler. Additionally, rotating exhibits feature both world-class and local artists of note and give visitors new reasons monthly to come up the hill.
During my recent visit, the art of renowned L.A. artist, Tom Knechtel was on display, providing a stimulating experience that ping-pong-ed my mind from heady fantasy to startling surprise and back. As the brochure description noted: Knechtel’s province has been the grotesque and the ravishing, the intimate and the spectacular, the jubilant and the melancholic, an apt description of the work. Many of his images were permanently burned into my mind’s eye after just one glance.
Step outside to view some of the museums’ best creations. Splendid landscaped paths lead around the perimeter of the three and half-acre property shaded by majestic trees intermingled with stellar sculptural works. These gardens and collections include some of my personal contemporary favorites, including Five Trees, by Abe Satoru.
The gardens were fashioned in the decade after the home was built by Reverend K. H. Inagaki, who created an idyll known as Nu'umealani, or Heavenly Terraces. Meandering on the downward slope and ravine of the property, the retreat is the ideal spot to roam or sit in quiet contemplation of the art found inside and out.
A former guest house adjacent to the gardens houses David Hockney’s inspired exhibit based on the Ravel opera L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (The Child and the Enchantment). The exhibit gives the illusion of walking through life-sized illustrations from a favorite children’s story in which a boy confined to his room conjures up images of fantasy and revenge. As the music from the opera plays in the background, after making the adjustment to the theatrical stage lighting, you soon become a player in the boy’s story.
A final rotating exhibit is located at the Museum Café. There, art mingles with delicious lunch options from soup to salads, crostini to Hijiki Tofu Burgers, which are as contemporary and delectable as the art on display.
In total, the attractions at the Contemporary Museum ensure its position as Honolulu’s best place to feed body, soul and spirit.
From journal Hawaii's Cultural Capital - Honolulu