Just completed is the year-long reinstallation of the museum's galleries of European and American art. Curator Theresa Papanikolas’s reinstallation showcases the crème de la crème of the museum’s European and American art, telling the story of the history of art from antiquity to 1970 while presenting the works in engaging, arresting ways.
For example, the museum’s Impressionist and post-Impressionist works, such as Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, now shine even brighter in a white, airy gallery, after being crowded in a small, low-ceilinged space.
Papanikolas not only reorganized the artwork, but also put into storage items that did not reflect the best of the museum’s collection, and brought out of storage works that do. In a bold move, she also transformed two galleries into rooms that invite the viewer to contemplate an overarching art theme—portraiture and the human form.
In the new Portraiture Gallery, Robert Dampier’s iconic 19th-century paintings of Kamehameha III and his sister Nahi‘ena‘ena, familiar to anyone who had a fourth-grade Hawaiian history class, rub shoulders with James McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Black No. 5: Lady Meux, raising questions of class, colonialism, and even costume. Visitors laugh out loud standing in front of the portrait of a grim-lipped 18th-century woman whose expression and posture mirror the adjacent 20th-century portrait of the artist Marisol Escobar by Alice Neel.
The gallery that formerly held only works from antiquity—such as Greek vases and Roman glass—now follows the history of the human body in art. The museum’s Roman ideal of a female draped figure from the 2nd century AD, stands near Modigliani’s 1918 Seated Nude and Thomas Eakins’ William Rush and His Model, sparking conversations on how the nude isn’t simply a nude, but a reflection of an entire society and its cultural attitudes about the body, society, religion, and gender.
It’s like Honolulu has a whole new museum to explore. We hope you will visit us to see these new galleries:
• Antiquity and the Body
• Medieval and Renaissance Art
• 17th-Century European Art
• 18th-Century European Art
• Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art
• Modernism (two galleries)
• Works on Paper
• Temporary Exhibition space, now on view: Modern Masters
Funding for this project was provided by the Walter F. and Mary Dillingham Frear Trust.