DESTINATIONS Featured

Aloha Nights! Georgia O’Keeffe’s Hawaii at the New York Botanical Garden

June 18, 2018

From May 19 through October 28, 2018, visitors to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx can witness the beauty that inspired iconic artist Georgia O’Keeffe—and that was captured by her artwork after a visit to the Hawaiian Islands. This ambitious exhibit, called Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i, includes a variety of day, evening and weekend events.

The 250-acre New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx is a virtual museum without walls—one whose permanent and temporary exhibitions change with the seasons. Some of the most anticipated events are those held spring and summer evenings when the crowds are fewer; evening breezes cool the air; and incredible tales come alive, woven through curated exhibits. Aloha Nights offers one of these special opportunities.

The backstory: An advertising gig

Pineapple memorabilia on display

Vintage pineapple memorabilia on display

In 1939, an advertising company invited Georgia O’Keeffe to travel from New York City to Hawaii to produce paintings that could be used to promote the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (which later became the Dole Food Company).

O’Keeffe studied the tropical landscapes and plants she found on the Hawaiian Islands and produced more than 20 paintings and sketches. After her return in 1940, these works were exhibited at An American Place, Alfred Stieglitz’s New York Gallery.

O’Keeffe’s work received critical acclaim for capturing the sense of place of the Hawaiian Islands. Two of the paintings she produced were eventually used in advertisements, one of a heliconia and the other of a pineapple bud.

The exhibit

Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i at the NYBG has four major components inspired by the iconic artist’s nine-week, 1939 visit:

  • The stunning Enid A. Haupt Conservatory houses an installation of the tropical plants that inspired the artist’s work in Hawaii. The variety of flora displayed showcase the biological diversity of the Hawaiian Islands.
Inside the Conservatory

Inside the Conservatory

Some of the flowers and plants on display at the NYBG

Some of the flowers and plants on display at the NYBG

  • The LuEsther T. Mertz Library Art Gallery holds an extraordinary exhibition of 17 O’Keeffe paintings, borrowed from private and museum collections, that haven’t been seen as a group since their 1940 New York debut. Also on display (although they pale in comparison to the spectacular paintings) are manuscripts, maps and other artifacts from the same time as the artist’s stay in Hawaii.
Exterior of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Art Gallery

Exterior of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Art Gallery

Hibiscus with Plumeria (on loan from the Smithsonian)

Hibiscus with Plumeria (on loan from the Smithsonian)

  • Along the winding paths lush with greenery and flowers, visitors will find contemporary lanterns and sculptures by Mark Chai, which were also inspired by the plants of Hawaii.
One of the lanterns illuminating a path

One of the lanterns illuminating a path

  • Finally, an exhibit called “A Closer Look” offers art and science activities for children and youth.

Aloha Nights

Aloha Nights are held on select Saturday evenings (June 23 & 30, July 7 &21 and August 4-18. From 6:30-10:30 PM), music fills the evening air, helping set the tropical mood with live, interactive hula dancing demonstrations on the lawn beside the Conservatory.

During our visit, the dancing instructor prefaced his lesson by explaining that Aloha means hello, goodbye and “I Love You.”

Guests are encouraged to wander through the grounds at their own pace, stopping at the Conservatory and the Library.

At an outdoor lei-making booth, a native Hawaiian explains how to make the traditional necklaces with fresh orchids that are so closely associated with Hawaiian hospitality.

Lei-making lesson

Lei-making lesson

A “Poke” food truck adds to the ambiance with Hawaiian fare and cocktails for purchase.

An interactive Media Guide with free Wi-Fi, used via your smartphone, offers details to help visitors better understand the scope of what they are seeing and experiencing.

Signage explaining the interactive guide

Signage explaining the interactive guide

Bottom line

Whether your interests are focused on art, plants, travel and/or culture, Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i at the New York Botanical Garden is a tightly-focused but memorable New York experience, held in an exquisite setting—especially on Aloha Nights.

Tropical flowers in the Conservatory

Tropical flowers in the Conservatory


Disclosure: The author was a guest of the New York Botanical Garden at an event sponsored by the Society of American Travel Writers. 


IF YOU GO

Take note

*NYBG has partnered with the Grand Hyatt New York and Metro-North to offer visitors a special package with a discounted hotel rate, admission to the exhibition and round-trip rail tickets from Grand Central Terminal.


Additional information on the O’Keeffe Exhibit from the NYBG Curator


 

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    June 18, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    I missed the New York Botanical Garden when I was there – pity because it looks well worth a visit. Especially now, with the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit.

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    June 18, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    There is always something new to see so be sure to take a look before your next trip!
    Best, Irene

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    June 18, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Coincidentally, we just spent the weekend with some college friends in Brooklyn, one of whom also visited the Botanical Garden and pronounced it wonderful. Despite being absolutely hopeless at keeping plant life alive ourselves, we seek out botanical gardens whenever we can on our trips. I never expected to add a visit to a botanical garden to my list of things to do in Gotham, but I think we clearly need to remedy that.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 18, 2018 at 9:15 pm

      I know from your lovely photography that you are a real plant lover. The New York Botanical Garden is a great NYC treasure.

  • Reply
    Carol
    June 18, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Oh my what loveliness is this…bringing Hawaii and Georgia O’Keefe to New York…at the botanical garden!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 18, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      It was so nice to see this slice of her life after visiting her museum and home in New Mexico.

  • Reply
    sheryl kraft
    June 18, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    This looks beautiful, and on a summery evening, it should be fabulous! Love your photos and the website’s new look…beautiful!

  • Reply
    Lauren M
    June 18, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Botanical Gardens are wonderful. Great photos!

  • Reply
    Lauren M
    June 18, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    Beautiful botanical gardens and great photos!

  • Reply
    Debbra Dunning Brouillette
    June 19, 2018 at 12:10 am

    I love visiting botanical gardens whenever I go! The Georgia O’Keefe exhibit would be lovely to see, too… Love your photos!

  • Reply
    Jackie K Smith
    June 19, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Well. . .ahhh- lo-ha! This looks like it would be loads of fun. Botanical gardens and Georgia O’Keefe, what a perfect combo!

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    June 19, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    I would love to tour tge New York Botanical Garden & the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. Just one more reason to plan a trip to Brooklyn!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    June 19, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    This Georgia O’Keeffe: Hawai’i show sounds fabulous! Wish I could make a visit to see it at the New York Botanical Garden, which is also on my travel to-do list. I wonder if it will travel to other venues?

  • Reply
    Dee. Parks
    June 21, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Superb…Her Santa Fe museum was a delight & I must enjoy all this beauty as well!
    Dee Parks, Bend, Or

  • Reply
    Cindy L
    June 22, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Your blog is looking so beautiful! This looks so enticing … it’s on my wish list now!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 22, 2018 at 10:23 am

      So glad you like the redesign…a very nice compliment from someone who has such a good eye for design!
      xo

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    June 23, 2018 at 5:50 am

    My parents used to take my sisters and me on an outing to the Bronx once a year from our home in Connecticut. We wanted to see the Bronx Zoo; they wanted to see the Botanical Gardens. Being three against two, we usually won. I just couldn’t appreciate it as a child, but I certainly would now. I’ll add it to my list for my next visit to New York.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 23, 2018 at 11:28 am

      And it would be great if you could time your visit the to the Botanical Garden with a special exhibit like this one!

  • Reply
    Rose Palmer
    June 24, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    I went last year fr the Chihuly exhibit-will have to check it out again for the this exhibit.

  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    June 25, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Just researching places to visit in NYC during my next trip. Looks perfect!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 25, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      If you are searching for “Green New York,” the Botanical Garden is unbeatable!

  • Reply
    Ira Charles Levenberg-Engel
    June 29, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Dear Riverdale Press- I enjoyed your article describing the display of 1939 Hawaiian paintings by Georgia O’keefe at the Bronx Botanical Gardens, but was surprised that Ms. Moustakas didn’t mention the Riverdale connection. After viewing the series of paintngs in the L.T. Mertz Library Art Gallery, my wife and I were directed into the library anteroom, which was filled with botanical specimens and other artifacts relating to the Hawaiian Islands. Among the glass display cabinets was a preserved Pineapple. As is scientific botanical custom, the specimen had a display card indicating common name, scientific name, date, and location of collection. The source was none other than our own local fruit purveyor, Garden Gourmet Market, 5665 Broadway, Riverdale, New York 10463.

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