Very Busy Curator Jens Hoffmann Chosen to Helm the Second Edition of the Honolulu Biennial

Scott Lawrimore and Nina Tonga will help organize the 2019 edition of the contemporary visual arts festival.

Jens Hoffmann. Photo: Robert Adler, courtesy New York Jewish Museum.

Jens Hoffmann, one of the busiest curators in the contemporary art world, is heading to Hawaii—but not for vacation. He has been tapped as the artistic director of the second edition of the Honolulu Biennial, the Honolulu Biennial Foundation (HBF) announced today. He will work alongside curators Scott Lawrimore and Nina Tonga to organize the multi-site contemporary visual arts festival, scheduled to open in spring of 2019.

“Honolulu Biennial is an opportunity to position Pacific dialogs in global contexts that transcend nationalism, regionalism, and isolationism,” said the three in a joint statement. “Hawaii as our archipelagic point of departure—an intersection of cultures formed by distinct experiences of islands and island-nations and patterns of oceanic migration and exchange—offers an unstable though forward-looking lens in which to engage the world’s relationship to this place.”

Scott Lawrimore, Nina Tonga, Jens Hoffmann, Honolulu, August 2017. Courtesy of Honolulu Biennial Foundation.

Scott Lawrimore, Nina Tonga, Jens Hoffmann, Honolulu, August 2017. Courtesy of Honolulu Biennial Foundation.

Hoffmann is the director of special exhibitions and public programs at New York’s Jewish Museum and the chief curator-at-large at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Lawrimore is based in Honolulu, where he is an exhibit designer at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum – Hawai’i State Museum, while Tonga is the curator of Pacific art at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Te Papa.

The biennial’s inaugural outing, “Middle of Now | Here,” took place in spring of this year, presenting a mix of artist superstars and emerging and regional figures from the Americas and Southeast Asia. There were 97,305 visits over the eight-week show, which was overseen by curatorial director Fumio Nanjo (director of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum) and curator Ngahiraka Mason (formerly of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki).

Yayoi Kusama, <em>Footprints of Life</em> (2010–17). Courtesy of the Honolulu Biennial.

Yayoi Kusama, Footprints of Life (2010–17). Courtesy of the Honolulu Biennial.

For the second go-round, the organizers are hoping to host more public programming and to introduce additional venues within the city. They will also expand to a neighboring island.

In a statement, HBF directors and co-founders Isabella Ellaheh Hughes and Katherine Ann Leilani Tuider praised Hoffmann, Lawrimore, and Tonga for their “incredibly dynamic profiles,” noting that “all three have a history of making innovative exhibitions of pressing issues with depth and sensitivity to place, occasion, and history.”

The second edition of the Honolulu Biennial will take place March 8–May 5, 2019.


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