Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

Keynote Ai Weiwei Opens Hawai'i Art Summit

noe tanigawa
International art star Yayoi Kusama's installation at Foster Botanical Garden was a highlight of the first Honolulu Biennial in 2017.

An international discussion is adding momentum to the arts in Hawai’i. The popular Honolulu Biennial Foundation has become Hawai’i Contemporary, and they are sponsoring an Art Summit to plant ideas for the next exhibition. 

Credit Noe Tanigawa
Bernice Akamine's Kalo, in the lobby of Hawai'i's Supreme Court. Honolulu Biennial 2019.

  Art today is not separate from life and that's the point, according to Katherine Don, Executive Director of Hawai'i Contemporary.

"You know, contemporary art, and the way Hawai'i Contemporary is thinking about art, it's not art for art's sake, says Don. "Art is a language for communicating  change. Whether we're about climate change, or social justice or other relevant issues, these artists are thinking about it too."


The focus of Hawai’i Contemporary’s Art Summit is to introduce themes curators are working through for the Honolulu Triennial in 2022. Those concerns include climate change, income disparity, racism, gun violence, the whole gamut of contemporary concerns are examined through art.


Don says artists today are working with other world leaders, addressing real world issues. Keynote speaker Ai Weiwei has said he regrets designing the “bird nest” stadium as a centerpiece for his country, China’s Olympics. 


"Ai Weiwei is a great example, but there are so many other artists that we have invited to the summit who champion that sort of activism. Art is not a mutually exclusive thing from all the other contemporary issues that we're addressing."

Artist and social innovator Theaster Gates of Chicago, international idea trader Miwako Tezuka, and other off island participants will participate. Along with local artists pursuing fresh ideas in their work: artist Drew Broderick, chef Mark Noguchi, hip hop artist Navid Najafi, historian/photographer Kapulani Landgraf, and public art perpetrator Gaye Chan, and others working currently in the islands.


"During the pandemic it hasn't stopped creativity from flourishing." Says Don. The Downtown Art Center is open, the Arts and Letters Building is now open, and the new bookstore by Mori Art and Flea...I think for us, when we're thinking about an event that is now about a year out, there are conversations artists are having that should be heard. This is the first time that Ai Weiwei would be featured or presented in a contemporary art context in Hawai'i, so I think that alone is really special and unique."


Expect presentations, and opportunities to interact in real time with other artists. The Hawai'i Contemporary Art Summit is set for February 10-13, 2021 registration is free and open now at the Hawai'i Contemporary website. The theme for the 2022 triennial is "A Pacific Century."

Participants in the Art Summit include: 

Ai Weiwei

Homi K. Bhabha

Drew Kahu‘?ina Broderick

Melissa Chiu

Eating in Public (Gaye Chan)

‘Elepaio Press (Mark and Richard Hamasaki)

Léuli Eshr?ghi

Theaster Gates

Karrabing Film Collective

N? Maka o ka ‘?ina (Joan Lander)

Mari Matsuda

Navid Najafi

Mark “Gooch” Noguchi

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio

Pili?mo‘o (Mark Hamasaki and Kapulani Landgraf)

Kawika Pegram

Mika Tajima

Nikkya Taliaferro

Miwako Tezuka

Related Content