Officials at the Halekulani hotel have opened a new lobby gallery, hoping to bring a more sophisticated series of exhibitions to Waikiki, where the picturesque, scenery-heavy artwork often on display is commonly labeled “touristy” by Oahu residents.
The 453-room luxury property recently unveiled “Photographs of Hawaii — Where Tradewinds Blow,” a collection of 25 images by Caroline Haskins Gurrey and A.R. Gurrey Jr. taken in Honolulu and Waikiki during the early 1900s.
Featuring portraits of Hawaiians, both beautifully posed and in action at an offshore surf break in Waikiki, the striking show made its debut in March at the Forbes Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York City before traveling to Hawaii as part of the Halekulani’s 30th anniversary celebration.
According to Peter Shaindlin, CEO of the Halekulani Corp., the exhibition is just the first of what he hopes will be many, likely lasting around three months, that showcase the arts and culture of Hawaii.
“We really want quote-unquote museum-grade work in the sense that’s it got to be something of real significance that has tremendous timeless value,” he told Travel Weekly. “And the Gurrey collection is a great start [because] the photographs are so stunning.”
Shaindlin explained that the Halekulani has in recent years done more to celebrate Hawaii’s cultural heritage by offering guests more opportunities to sample authentic examples of the community’s artwork and presenting a range of performances, but he noted that the newly opened gallery space at the hotel is place where he hopes to break new ground.
“What we’re trying to pioneer with this is fine art in Waikiki,” Shaindlin said. “We’re saying for museum-grade work, you don’t have to leave Waikiki now to see art of a global pedigree.”
Halekulani Corp. also runs the 296-room Waikiki Parc Hotel just across the street, where management has dedicated a sizeable amount of lobby space to recent contemporary art school graduates at the University of Hawaii.
“We wanted to find young Hawaii artists and give them a space for their first solo exhibition, [because] for young artists, their biggest problem is getting a solo show today in Hawaii,” Shaindlin explained.
Guests staying at the Halekulani or Waikiki Parc can also take advantage of the properties’ “For You, Everything” program, which enables travelers to benefit from the Halekulani Corp.’s range of arts and culture sponsorships across Oahu.
“For museums [like the Honolulu Museum of Art and the Bishop Museum] you just show them your guestroom key and you walk in free,” Shaindlin said. “If you are here during the symphony or pops season, we will give you complimentary orchestra seats, which are the best in the house. If you are here during the [Hawaii International Film Festival], we will give you complimentary VIP seats for any film showing during your stay.”
According to Shaindlin, the program has been a big hit with guests and caters to the evolving interests of today’s travelers.
“The contemporary traveler is an informed traveler,” he said. “And they’re very curious to know culturally what’s going on where they are.”