Art Tour: Four Seasons Maui at Wailea

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If you are staying in Wailea, or happen to love art, a walk through the collection at the Four Season’s Maui at Wailea should be on your list. Installed to much fan fare in April of 2008, the museum quality pieces range from original photos depicting ’60s surf culture by Leroy Grannis to Polynesian prints created by native Hawaiian Herman Pi‘ikea Clark and his wife and artistic partner, Sue Pearson, a descendant of mutineers on the Bounty (as in Fletcher Christian). Clark’s two large prints hang at the entry of the hotel. Their design evokes the sun, the sea and the journey Clark’s ancestors made thousands of years ago.

"Journey and navigation turn out to be common themes throughout the collection," says exhibition curator Julie Cline, of Julie Cline Fine Art Services in Montecito, California. Cline previously put together a historical collection of the arts from discovery (1778, Captain Cook) up to statehood (1959) at the Hualalai Four Seasons on the Big Island’s Kona coast. She was researching new and emerging fine Hawaiian artists when the Maui property invited her to help create a permanent art collection that would connect the property to Maui and the islands. “I told them that the natural progression was to tell the story of the arts from 1959 forward, especially given the contemporary nature of the architecture of that hotel and its aesthetic,” she says. “I chose artists who either were born here or have spent some time in the islands and were able to [visually] interpret their experience.” For instance, to elicit the Hawaiian concept of ohana or family, Kaua‘i-born artist Jason Teraoka looked no further than his own family photo albums documenting three generations. A colorful print, Wave Warrior, by Don Ed Hardy, internationally respected tattoo artist, presents a ritual dager (mythical figure) surfing through a towering wave, symbolizing knowledge cutting through ignorance. The show offers a variety of mediums including a tall marine-wood sculpture titled Guardian by Ron Kent, an authentic wiggle dress by Sheri Holt, and in all nearly 280 pieces of note placed throughout the hotel.

“The collection is not just about emerging Hawaiian artists,” says Jay Jenson, deputy director of exhibitions and collections for the Contemporary Art Museum in Honolulu. “It’s a wonderful showcase of a cross section of contemporary Hawaiian artists that visitors to the islands wouldn’t normally see,” especially given the islands’ scarcity of galleries that show fine art. Some of his favorites here are the huge Jun Kaneko ceramic heads (above right), aptly titled Colossal Heads, in the entry and a large batik by Yvonne Cheng. The island art collection will remain at the Four Seasons indefinitely; journey motifs aside, in this case it’s the visitors who will come and go. To do a bit of research, check out their YouTube channel.

Best time to go? Anytime is good, but for me- happy hour. Get a cocktail at the bar, and tour the collection before dinning at one of the onsite restaurants.