Insider Top 10: The Best of Oahu's Emerging Art Scene
Photo by Karly Santiago
From the Honolulu Museum of Art’s ARTafterDARK to street art in Kaka’ako, the Oahu art scene is booming, and spots around Waikiki are leading the way. When you want to go beyond the surf and sand, our insider’s guide to the local art scene will be just as adventurous.
The shopping center-slash-city-block SALT at Our Kakaako has become the hub for all things cool around Waikiki. And the artsy SALT Marketplace fits the bill. Held in the Barn at SALT, this monthly event is one part art show, one part cultural gathering. And it features local artists and makers with a goal not only to share great art, but also to help preserve Hawaiian cultural traditions for the next generation.
Taking art beyond the gallery, First Fridays in Honolulu’s Chinatown shows off art in the neighborhood’s galleries—and boutiques and cafes as well. Then late-night, the (art) party continues at the chic bars and lounges nearby.
Cedar Street Galleries
For little more traditional—and local—art scene, Cedar Street Galleries just outside Waikiki is one of the best. Showcasing fine art from over 450 local artists, Cedar Street’s connection to the island can be felt across all artworks, from modern sculptures by Satoru Abe to century-old pieces by “Lady” Madge Tennet.
One of the city’s most popular events, Honolulu Museum of Art’s premier monthly after-hours series (January through October) is an art-meets-culture paradise. Featuring Waikiki beach art and beyond, ARTafterDARK showcases local talent like one of Hawaii’s native sons—and arguably the world’s most celebrated extreme-surf photographer—Zak Noyle. And the onsite bar and vibrant themes make every event an experience (dressing up for the theme encouraged). This is the place to be for the city’s who’s-who, so get there early and plan to stay late.
Louis Pohl Gallery
Known for helping to cultivate Hawaii’s modern art scene, Louis Pohl’s works range from cartooning and illustration to large-scale paintings. His work as teacher and mentor also led him to be designated a “Living Treasure of Hawaii” in 1994, and today his downtown Honolulu gallery showcases local and Hawaii-connected artists—with a focus on the innovative and what’s-next.
Photo "Pow Wow" by Laura Austin
This annual street art festival leaves the ultra-cool Kakaako district an even bigger walk-through gallery of urban art each year. And the talent is global. Top street-cred artists like Shepard Fairey, CRASH, Logan Hicks and Audrey Kawaski have left their colorful mark, and if you’re in town in February, the kick-off to the year’s newest murals includes a block party alongside the Honolulu Night Market, a Thinkspace exhibition and more.
Repeatedly voted “Best Honolulu Gallery” by readers of Honolulu Magazine, the family-run Nohea Gallery features not only paintings but also handmade-in-Hawaii crafts, jewelry, Hawaiian woods, bowls and modern-meets-nature furniture.
LIK Fine Art Waikiki
Voted best Gallery in Hawaii two years in a row by American Art Awards, this art gallery in Waikiki is so very Hawaii. A glass façade segues from the boutiques and cafes on the Waikiki Beach Walk into a haven that’s a scenic and stunning tribute to the land of the Gods: oversize photographs of Diamond Head, volcano shots from nearby Kīlauea, and pristine landscape photography that pushes the boundaries of fine art.
Beachcomber Original, Erin Ibarra
The Beachcomber Originals
It may seem surprising to have a hotel make the list—but Waikiki Beachcomber earned it. As part of its recent revitalization, the resort has embraced local art in a whole new way. In its signature “Beachcomber Originals,” influential local artists and creators bring their take on Waikiki culture to the interiors of the resort and beyond—including the aforementioned Zak Noyle, whose dramatic underwater imagery greets guests on the 75-foot grand escalator. Printmaker Abigail Romanchak’s in-room pieces capture the essence of Hawaiian identity and culture, and other heavy-hitters include Hawaii’s “chalkboard queen” Erin Ibarra, photographer Vince Lim, and muralist Margo Ray.
Art on the Zoo Fence
Buy, chat, learn. This regular daytime weekend event for Waikiki art is a local favorite, featuring mainly photography, paintings and prints—hung, yes, on the fence across from Kapiolani Park. This unconventional outdoor gallery allows art-lovers to interact with the artists in true aloha style.
Ready to experience Oahu's art scene up-close? Start here.