An Artistic Walkabout in Waikiki
By Andy Beth Miller
In addition to natural beauty, expressions of art are found throughout Waikiki.
When thinking of Waikiki, most people envision its alluring white sand beaches, the scintillating and savory fine dining available on every corner or the world-class luxury shopping that just won’t stop. Yet, we would be remiss if we did not applaud the awe-inspiring art and beauty within Waikiki’s borders. From magnificent murals to rapturous sculptures, and gorgeous glicees to traditional tapas, this sun-speckled stretch of paradise literally paints quite an aesthetically pleasing portrait of island-inspired life—one that celebrates its unique history and rich culture.
One landmark hotel that serves as the perfect destination spot to showcase several of Waikiki’s most extraordinary exhibits is the world renowned Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. Located right in the heart of Waikiki’s bustling epicenter, the luxurious hotel boasts not only an inviting oceanfront address, but also offers on display the creative genius of several local and world-famous artists.
Perhaps the most universally recognized piece of Hilton Hawaii’s plethora of art is its iconic Rainbow Mural mosaic. Designed by prolific artist Millard Sheets, the original 1968 work was no small undertaking. In fact, once completed, the beautiful construction was named the world’s tallest mosaic at the time.
Jerry Gibson, area vice president of Hilton Hawaii, attested to the importance and historical notoriety that the lovely landmark has brought to O‘ahu, stating that, “The Rainbow Mural on Oahu is the iconic equivalent to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or the Statue of Liberty in New York.” Gibson went on to point out that, “It is synonymous with Waikiki and is actually a celebrity in its own right, having been the backdrop in many movies, TV shows and thousands of vacation photos taken on Waikiki Beach.”
The original mosaic was made of more than 16,000 color-drenched ceramic tiles, painstakingly hand-painted and lining both sides of the hotel’s 31-story Rainbow Tower. Providing a warm welcome to all O‘ahu visitors, this construction became a bright and beautiful beacon symbolizing the Aloha and joy awaiting all who set foot on the warm sands of Waikiki.
The mosaic was later renovated by a comprehensive team, hired by Hilton Hawaii and led by experts in the field, Johnson Tiles, in order to preserve the authenticity of the art. Now featuring more than 31,000 tiles—each perfectly color-matched and intricately replicated—the revamped Rainbow Mural may be seen proudly standing today in all its Technicolor beauty.
Artist Kim Duffett contributes two more of Hilton Hawaii’s outstanding offerings. Larger than life and stunning in both its sheer size and splendor, Duffett’s mixed media sculpture featuring three kahiko dancers is cast in bronze, yet somehow manages to convey movement and magical flow in every angle. This “wind dance” image harnesses inspiration described by Duffett as invoked by the wind, with a magical “invisible energy” often felt but remaining unseen. Meander by these majestic sculptures and you will undoubtedly feel the ancestral spirits swaying the hula alongside.
Also paying homage to “Hawai‘i’s Golden Voice” Alfred Apaka, Duffett sculpted an awe-inspiring statue that brilliantly captures the charm, legacy and music that Apaka is known and loved for. The statue holds a special place, standing at the grand entrance of Hilton’s Tapa Tower.
Not to be outdone, both the Outrigger Waikiki and its sister hotel, Outrigger Reef, also house a wealth of artistic prowess. Specifically, the awe-inspiring artwork of Herb Kane dominates the hotels’ luxurious décor. From a myriad of glittering glicees adorning the walls of Outrigger Reef, to a looming statement piece at Outrigger Waikiki, Kane’s creations offer aesthetic appeal literally as far as the eye can see.
“We’re truly fortunate to have the beautiful artwork of [the late] Herb Kane on display here at the Outrigger Reef,” says Luana Maitland, events and activities manager for Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort.
“When the hotel was last renovated, we knew we wanted an impactful display for our front desk. The first thing that came to mind was a Herb Kane mural, but Herb was retired by that time and no longer taking on such large projects. However, when he heard that we wanted to pay homage to the incredible history of Polynesian ocean voyaging, he offered us an extraordinary collection of 18 images of traditional canoes from various Pacific Basic locations. A day doesn’t go by without at least one guest commenting on this stunning display that graces our front desk.”