Serious Fun: Thurston Twigg-Smith and Contemporary Art
Honolulu, HI 96814
For more than 50 years Thurston Twigg-Smith, known affectionately as Twigg in the islands and beyond, has played a leading role in the development and appreciation of contemporary art in Honolulu. In 1961, as a young executive at The Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, he conceived and implemented the Honolulu Advertiser Gallery (HAG) as a space devoted to exhibitions of works by contemporary artists of Hawai’i. Concurrently, he began the Honolulu Advertiser Collection at Persis Corporation, purchasing works from the exhibitions, a collection which ultimately comprised over 3,000 works. HAG became the Contemporary Arts Center which led to the founding by Twigg and his late wife Laila of The Contemporary Museum (TCM), which opened to the public in 1988 at Spalding House in Makiki Heights. In 2011 TCM and the Honolulu Academy of Arts merged, forming the renamed Honolulu Museum of Art.
While Twigg had a collector’s sensibility early on, assembling an unparalleled collection of rare Hawaiian stamps and covers, in the 1980s he and Laila began forming a personal collection of contemporary art, as well as expanding the Honolulu Advertiser Collection to include works by nationally and internationally known artists. Collecting continued to be an important focus with his wife Sharon from the 1990s to the present. Over the years, large numbers of works were donated to TCM and HAA, as well as to major museums elsewhere, first by Twigg and Laila, then Twigg and Sharon, and also, through Persis Corporation, by the Twigg-Smith family, who, following Twigg’s leadership, donated works from the corporate collection.
Private collections usually reflect the personal interests and tastes of the collectors, which is true of the Twigg-Smith collection. The aim was never to have a formulaic collection that included one of this artist, one of that artist, according to the prevailing movements and names, but rather to have the joy of finding and putting together disparate works by artists from many places, from famous to emerging to unknown, always keeping an open mind and a curious eye. The collection includes works by minimal and abstract artists, but the overriding characteristics that are revealed in the selected works presented here from among nearly 2,000 works donated to the museum are summed up by the words "figurative," "narrative," "bold," "colorful," and "humorous" (often with an undercurrent of social/political meaning). The collection has been formed in a spirit of fun, yet with the serious purpose of creating a public resource of contemporary art for the community as well as for visitors from around the world.