Set high up on a hill overlooking Honolulu, the Contemporary Museum features contemporary art from 1940 to the present. In addition to maintaining the art exhibits, the Contemporary Museum sponsors educational programs, maintains the museum gardens, a library, a museum gift shop, and a very elegant and artistic cafe.
The Contemporary Museum is located in the historic Cooke-Spalding House in the neighborhood of Makiki. The museum’s exhibitions are also shown at the First Hawaiian Center in downtown Honolulu.
The museum’s Contemporary Cafe is a great place to visit for an enjoyable lunch or cup of coffee. The cafe provides indoor seating in an art gallery atmosphere as well as outdoor seating in a garden environment.
The library at the Contemporary Museum includes more than 800 volumes about contemporary artists and artworks. Many of the book may be checked out by patrons for up to one month. Also in the collection are monographs, surveys, catalogues and periodicals.
The delightful gardens at the Contemporary Museum cover about 3.5 acres. Named Nuumealani, which means “Heavenly Terrace,” the sculpture and meditation gardens were designed from 1920 to 1940 to provide a place for peaceful meditating and experiencing the harmony of nature.
In addition to a tropical terraced area in the gardens there is a large grass lawn, places to sit and relax, and walking paths. The museum’s preservation and maintenance of these gardens earned them the American Society of Landscape Architects Millennium Award.
The home that houses the museum was designed by renowned architect Hart Wood for Mrs. Charles Montague Cooke in 1925. Art objects that belonged to Mrs. Charles Montague Cooke form the basis of the Contemporary Museum’s collection. The home was purchased by the Honolulu Academy of the Arts in 1968 with a bequest from Anna Rice Cooke’s daughter, Alice Spalding.
The Contemporary Museum in Makiki is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Sunday from noon to 4 pm. The Contemporary Cafe is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and Sunday from noon to 2:30 pm. Call (808) 523-3362 for reservations.