Home, garden museum revisited

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HONOLULU -- It had been ages since I'd visited the Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, and when I did, I scolded myself for letting so much time pass.

While it's not a commissionable activity, it's one of those places your clients will thank you for recommending.

Only minutes outside of downtown, the museum is situated in a residential area in Makiki Heights, with panoramic views of the city, vast gardens, a shop packed with gift items and a cafe for lunch. A former home built on 3.5 acres in 1925, the building officially became the museum in 1988.

Portions of the gardens date to the 1930s. They are so extensive that the museum provides a map of its narrow dirt trails, labeling the many varieties of plants.

Sculptures also decorate the grounds; my favorite was a stainless-steel structure called "Breaking Column." Run on ball bearings, it moves and changes with the wind.

At the time of my visit, the exhibition, "Surf Culture: The Art History of Surfing," examined the history of surfing through art from the late 1700s to the present.

Photographs of surfers in action complemented drawings, paintings and sculptures about the sport and the ocean.

One of the most breathtaking was a photograph of big wave legend Laird Hamilton in the tube of what looks to be a 40-plus-foot wave. Below it was the surfboard he used.

Surfboards were a large part of the exhibition. Some are works of art, like the one crafted with inlaid abalone. Others brought history to life, such as the 14.5-foot long, 150-pound koa board used by Hawaiian royalty in the waves of Waikiki around 1830.

In the gardens, a permanent exhibit painted in 1983 by David Hockney offers his interpretation of the Ravel opera "L'Enfant et les Sortileges." It engages all of the senses and transformed the entire pavilion -- now called the Hockney Pavilion.

The admission fee is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. Children under age 12 enter free.

The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Docent tours are available daily at 1:30 p.m. For information, call (808) 526-1322 or visit www.tcmhi.org.

Looking ahead to what's coming at the Contemporary Museum:

• Recent works by Los Angeles artist Tony Berlant, who has created metal collages since the early 1960s. Through June 15.

• Sixth Biennial of Hawaii Artists, a selection of the best recent work by artists living and working in the Islands. June 27 to Aug. 31.

• ArtSpree, July 12, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Activities include musical and dance performances. Children can participate in art projects under the guidance of artists. Shuttles to parking areas are available all day. Admission is free.

• Crossings 2003: Korea/Hawaii, an international event that commemorates the 100th anniversary of Korean immigration to the U.S., Sept. 19 to Nov. 16.

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