Korean exhibit puts focus on Oahu's artsy side


HONOLULU -- Works by some of Korea's top artists -- billed as the largest display of contemporary Korean art ever shown outside Korea -- will be featured through Nov. 16 at art museums and galleries on Oahu as part of a display called "Crossings 2003: Korea/Hawaii."

"Some of the art is as cutting-edge as it gets," said Tom Klobe, Crossings coordinator and director of the University of Hawaii Art Gallery. "People will be surprised to see the work that is coming out of Korea. We might shake things up a bit with this exhibition."

The exhibit contains pieces such as a Christ figure covered in sequins, sculptures made from vermicelli and a barbed-wire wall.

On display at Honolulu Hale (City Hall) is a piece titled "A Mirror Woman," which features a circular mirrored floor surrounded by a tall tube of scrim that rises to the skylight, revealing clouds at the top.

Artist Kimsooja compared it to the immigrant experience of entering a new realm, and guests are invited to walk inside.

The show's primary goal is to draw more attention to Hawaii's vibrant art scene, Klobe said.

"We're certainly evaluating what we can do to help the state economically in terms of attracting tourists," he said a few days before the exhibit's grand opening Sept. 14.

"We're trying to let the world know what is happening artistically and culturally in Hawaii. We're much more proactive than we were 10 years ago."

Museums and galleries also want to get the word out early so art enthusiasts can arrange their travel plans around specific exhibits.

The Halekulani offers free tickets to museums and galleries to guests (and symphony tickets are excellent, they tell me).

This year, an estimated 80,000 visitors will view the paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, mixed media, high tech and multimedia associated with Crossings.

"The arts and culture are vital to our visitor industry, and it's growing in importance," said Les Enderton, interim president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. "We're not just a beach and palm tree destination; our cultural resources are extraordinary."

Enderton added that the HVCB is trying to promote existing cultural events to attract visitors during the shoulder seasons.

Plans include a big push for an art season in the Islands next spring, before the traditionally strong summer months.

"Unlike festivals in the mainland, where there might be one theme, the idea of this season is to celebrate Hawaii's diversity and the various things to see and experience -- such as cultural events, Kabuki theater, hula festivals, symphony, opera and food events -- and to give people another reason to come during that time," said Frank Haas, director of marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Gallery hours, admission information and a schedule of exhibits, lectures and programs can be found at www.hawaii.edu/artgallery/crossings.

To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].

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