The Honolulu Museum of Art, formerly the Honolulu Academy of Art, is a wonderful art gallery is located at 900 S, Beretania Street. Parking can sometimes be found on the streets surrounding and in a small parking lot. We got lucky and found a metered spot first in line on the side street. However, that meant Bill’s job became meter monitor while Marilyn and I went on a tour. He ran out of coins before we returned and barely let us get in the car before he was moving out into traffic. Consider parking a few blocks away at the Blaisdale Center, using the Bus system or hiring a cab. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 to 4:30. On Sunday it is open 1 to 5. Admission is $10 for adults and free for those under 17. Good place for a family outing. The entry fee also covers the Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House at a different location.
We arrived as the gates opened but stopped outside to appreciate the beauty of the building. Inside we wandered from gallery to gallery and stopped to enjoy the beauty of the six courtyards scattered throughout the building. You can proceed in any direction you want, but I like to go chronologically with the Western Civilization from Ancients to Middle Ages, to Renaissance, to Impressionist and Modernism. Upper level gallery highlights the Arts of Hawai’i. In the west wing we looked at the Indonesian, Southeast Asian and Indian Art. We paid special attention to the Arts of the Islamic World (more on that later). There is a huge wing we didn’t have time for on this trip. It contains the art of Japan, China, Korea, and Pan Asian Buddhism. Had to hurry because we had a lunch date and a tour.
We had reservations at the Honolulu Museum of Art Café. They have a good menu with lots of fresh island ingredients at a shaded section of a large courtyard. We asked for a table where we could watch the fountain. The water trickles down a wall below four gigantic man-made and decorated boulders, the artwork of Jun Kaneko. Reservations are recommended, call 808-532-8734.First seating is at 11:30 am and the last at 1:30 pm. Marilyn and I had pork with pineapple salsa. Bill had a chicken pasta dish. I was thrilled to get a tall icy glass of POG. (Passion Fruit-Orange-Guava). It was such a pleasant experience. After lunch we shopped the museum shop where we always find a unique treasure.
Bill settled himself on a bench in a shaded walkway with a view of a pretty courtyard. Marilyn and I joined a tour group at the Ward Street Entrance.
Shangri La is the estate of Doris Duke. The art museum runs tours out to the estate that is operated by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Reservations are required, this tour costs $25, and you also have to pay admission to the Honolulu Museum of Art. Our docent checked us off her list and sent us into the Islamic Art Gallery where we watched a video about Doris Duke and how she became a collector Islamic Art. Here is a synopsis: 12 year old inherits massive fortune from tobacco and utility czar; marries at 23 and tours the world on honeymoon; starts shopping for Islamic art to be sent home (whole rooms); stops in Oahu on way home falls in love with the island and buys land; builds Shangri La; shops some more; ditches husband; shops; marries playboy, ditches playboy; continues shopping for Islamic Art. In the video-viewing gallery are also some wonderful pieces of Islamic art from her collection. We regrouped in the courtyard and then boarded the small shuttle bus. Marilyn was surprised we were not on a large touring bus like a Greyhound. I laughed and told her she would find out why, soon. It is a fun ride from the museum to the estate. We drove though beautiful neighborhoods. Our shuttle pulled up to a gated drive where the driver remote controlled its opening. Once it was open we began a slow descent on a narrow, vegetation-choked drive that ended at a tight turn-around with a banyan tree in the center. There would have been a disaster if we had met another vehicle, in route. Marilyn now understands why we weren’t on a big bus.
Two docents met us on board the shuttle and divided us into two groups. Our group started with the house and the other group started with the gardens.
From the exterior the house looks very plain. The only thing that saves it from looking like a warehouse is the pair of silly smiling camels on each side of the entryway. Then we stepped inside. Oh, wow! We all reached for our cameras…. just as the docent told us no pictures inside, but we can take all the outdoor pictures we want. But….!!!! We toured seven or eight rooms, most of which were harvested from one particular Islamic country. The living room was more a blend and also the most livable room. Doris was a very tall woman and the furniture was built for her. We were allowed to sit down in two different rooms while the docent went into great detail. I am only 5’ tall and found nowhere to sit that was comfortable. I have toured lots of houses in my travels and this one is like no other. Lots of mosaics, tiled floors, intricately carved doors and windows. I would not choose to live here, but I appreciate the architecture and artwork. Besides the Islamic art making this house unique, there is a very interesting window wall in the living room. Instead of sliding on tracks to open the huge glass panels, the panels descend into the floor on their very own Otis elevator. Carved screens can be pulled on the tracts for sunshine control. Since my last trip here, the Damascus room has been opened to the public. Doris built it as a guestroom but later decided she would rather have some distance from her guests. Then she built a guesthouse at the far end of the swimming pool/fountain.
We were given a water break on the outside veranda. From here we could see the guesthouse, the salt-water pool, the fountain and down at sea level the safe harbor built for her boat. Now this area has become a favorite place for neighbors to swim. In the distance is the backside of Diamondhead. What a lovely view! And there are flowering shrubs and trees bordering the large lawn where Doris’ dogs romped. At the end of our tour we were taken to the formal Mughal garden. Pretty, but oppressively hot, I can’t imagine lingering in this garden.