Hawaiian Art

Whether it’s the $30 million collection at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort, the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s larger-than-life bronze statues depicting the islands’ cultural traditions or the vintage photographs on display at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, art lovers can get their fix of original works when they head to Hawaii. Much of the islands’ culture is reflected in the art that the resorts display, and many visitors, rushing to the golf course or beach, can appreciate the talent along the way.


The Blessing of Puanani, meaning “Beautiful Flower,” at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

Hotel as Art

If it’s one contemporary artist’s work in which you’d like to submerge, The Wyland Waikiki Hotel may be the place to do it. Although artist Robert Wyland doesn’t hail from Hawaii, his marine wildlife art is ever popular on the islands. This new(ish) boutique on Royal Hawaiian Avenue is awash in his works, with every aspect of the decor reflecting a tropical marine theme. But you’ll have to be a fan of this “Michelangelo of the sea” to appreciate the wall-sized murals of whales, paintings of ocean fauna and bronze dolphin and sea turtle sculptures that figure so prominently in this hotel’s sleek design. 

In Praise of Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs—ancient stone carvings—are the earliest Hawaiian artwork, and some of the most spectacular can be found in the Big Island’s Puako Petrogylph Archaeological District north of the Mauna Lani Resort. Visitors can grab a brochure and a self-guide map and meander through the glyph fields (head out early to avoid the intense heat), or they can take one of the expert-led tours offered by area hotels.

These ancient stone sketchings have inspired unique contemporary works, from photographs to paintings to combinations of both, that appear in resorts throughout Hawaii. The Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, which underwent a significant renovation over the past several years that incorporated many indigenous island materials, displays the ethereal petroglyph art created by Honolulu-based artist Lynn Cook, while images of petroglyphs appear in artist Sue Nash’s paintings, on display at the Hotel Hana-Maui.

A Modern Eye to the Past

Many contemporary Hawaiian artists, like Cook, look to the past when creating new works, borrowing from the islands’ unique culture and traditions. The newest bronze sculpture at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, created by artist KaMille, depicts ancient tapa, or kapa, makers (a traditional art practiced in Hawaii in which cloth is made from tree bark). The resort is also in the final stages of completing the sculpture of a poi pounder, which will front the new Grand Waikikian tower when it opens this December.


Surf-Riders, Honolulu by Charles W. Bartlett can be viewed at Four Seasons Hualalai

The Kauai Marriott also embraces tradition as part of its $300,000 Hawaiian Art and Artifact Project, an initiative to establish a truly Hawaiian environment at the hotel. Works include bottle gourd drums created by local craftsman Noeau Penner, as well as such artifacts as a canoe once owned by Hawaii’s Prince Kuhio, a collection of Hawaiian weapons and even a length of century-old kapa.

On Maui, the newly reopened Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is an art lover’s dream. After a $180 million renovation, there’s more Hawaiian artwork here than ever before. Rooms sport Hawaiian prints framed in native koa wood, meeting space boasts custom-patterned kapa wall panels and twice-weekly local artisans display their wares in the hotel.

Does Art Sell a Hotel?

Agents who sell Hawaii to upscale clients say many things influence hotel choice, including a property’s overall ambiance and visual appeal. That’s where museum-quality collections can make a difference, even for those who aren’t art lovers or collectors.
“I can’t tell you with certainty to what degree art influences our clients’ choice of properties in Hawaii,” says Theresa Bartsch, travel consultant at Travelong of Summit, a Virtuoso member travel agency based in Summit, NJ. “But our clients appreciate an experience reflective of the things they value, and more often than not, they are collectors. Therefore, the art never goes unnoticed—and it’s often a subject of conversation.”

Bartsch says that although some high-end travelers seek to make art purchases to “show off to their friends” back home, it’s mostly the lasting impressions that collections make on these travelers that enhance their overall enjoyment and “lead to repeat business and referrals.”

One of the most impressive contemporary collections with a nod to Hawaii’s history can be found at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort, which houses more than 80 original paintings, sculptures, murals and artifacts, sprinkled throughout the lush grounds. Local Hawaiian artists are represented in the welded copper and bronze of Honolulu-born Satoru Abe, the stone carvings of Hilo, Hawaii-born Sean K.L. Browne and the sculptures of Wailuku, Maui-born Shige Yamada. An artists-in-residence program allows guests to browse the works of select local artists twice weekly (International artists are strongly represented here as well, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Fernand Léger, along with many artists from the Pacific Rim).

Meanwhile, fans of vintage Hawaiiana find much to love in the recent $50 million renovation of the Big Island’s Waikoloa Beach Marriott, where limited-edition surfing photographs by Leroy Grannis and Jeff Devine depict more than 40 years of Hawaii’s favorite sport. Its sister Marriott in Waikiki, which just completed a $28-million room renovation in its oceanfront Kealohilani Tower, now boasts nostalgic wall paintings of Honolulu and surfing scenes as well.

Going Global

With visitors hailing from across the world, many of Hawaii’s upscale resorts have work from artists spanning the globe. In addition to multiple works from international artists at the Grand Wailea, there are phenomenal worldwide collections at several other properties. The Four Seasons’ Big Island, Maui and Lanai properties may together house the largest collection in the state, especially given the new 2,600-piece collection at The Four Seasons Wailea, which recently capped a $50 million renovation. Each of the resorts offer podcasts of their extensive works, set to the tunes of local musician Keali’i Reichel and featuring narration from some of the artists.

Meanwhile, the Big Island’s Hilton Waikoloa Village has its own art gallery and curator, and has spent $7 million on global works from ancient to modern. Among the 5,000 pieces at the 62-acre resort (which offers biweekly guided tours) are 2,000-year-old Han dynasty objects, Samoan war clubs and Hawaiian feather leis. There’s an onsite artists-in-residence program for a hands-on look at the creative process as well.


Lampfires on display at Four Seasons Hualalai

And tourists tuned into the art scene are looking forward to the reopening of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Spring 2009 after a $150 million renovation, since its museum-quality collection of 1,600 Asian and Pacific works will be back online. From a five-foot-tall pink granite Buddha sculpted in 7th-century India to two ancient bronze dogs from Thailand, the resort has always offered a cross-cultural collection for art connoisseurs.


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