Founded in 1927 under the name the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest presenter of visual arts in the Hawaiian Islands. The institution came to be through a merger of two Arts-centered entities that existed on the island. In 2011, the Contemporary Museum gifted its assists and collection to the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
The following year merged collection was reopened as the Honolulu Museum of Art.
The Museum got its start in the early 1920s when founder Anna Rice Cooke, a member of a well-known missionary family on Oahu, and her husband, Charles Montague Cooke, began assembling their personal art collection. They were interested in everything from ceramics to “parlor pieces,” that were handcrafted by a local furniture maker, Yuen Kwok Fong Inn. Inn’s brother often sent him ceramics and textile pieces from China, which he would then resell in his shop.
The Cooke’s collection soon grew to be too large for their home, so the couple created Hawaii’s first art museum to showcase visual arts produced by and for locals. Their museum reflected life on the islands and much of the artwork focused on the multicultural makeup of the residents.
Since it first opened, the museum and its collection has grown steadily and is known to be one of the finest museums in the United States.
Throughout the years there have been additions made to the original building, including a library, an educational wing, a gift shop, a cafe, a contemporary gallery, administrative offices and 280-seat theater, and an art center for studio classes and expanded educational programming.
The museum’s permanent collection has grown exponentially from the original works in the collection, which numbered around 500 when it first opened. Today there are more than 50,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years, with significant pieces representing Asian art, American and European painting and decorative arts, 19th- and 20th-century art, an extensive collection of works on paper, Asian textiles, and traditional works from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
To learn more about the Museum and all that it has to offer, go to honolulumuseum.org.