When the Grand Hyatt first opened in 1991 in Wailea, it already had an art curator in place.
Then owner Takeshi Sekiguchi poured millions of his corporate budget into local art for the $650-million property, and also added beefy and oh-so expensive Botero sculptures on top of it.
Flash forward to today, and the resort is Grand Wailea, under the Hilton luxury brand, Waldorf Astoria. The artwork and the interactive public art programs continue to flourish, and original art curator Michael Gilbert is still in charge.
Napua Gallery artist Roman Czerwinski paints oils with a palette knife. The native of Poland likes to set up shop on Wednesdays.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
"Mr. Sekiguchi raised the bar in Hawaii by purchasing $30 million of local art such as the famous lobby sculptures by Herb Kane and Shige Yamada," says Gilbert. "Hotel magnate Steve Wynn was one of our first guests here, and he told me that he had $30 million available to buy just one of the pieces."
That was before Wynn upped his game in Las Vegas by building the Wynn Hotel & Casino and later the adjoining Encore; as well as his eponymous gaming facilities in Macau, the former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong.
When Wynn opened the $2.3-billion Encore in December, 2008, he debuted the contemporary Botero steak house with a voluptuous centerpiece sculpture as well as paintings by the world-famous Columbian artist, whose full name is Fernando Botero Angulo.
The connection continues, as Gilbert is flying to Encore in Las Vegas soon to hand deliver Botero Bars, new chocolate candy shaped like a full-figured Botero sculpture, made with cacao grown at Grand Wailea and blended with honey from the rooftop apiary of the resort.
"I initially called Maui sculpture Dale Zarrella to make the mold for the candy bars, but he wanted to stick with making original turtle artwork," Gilbert says. "So I made the mold and now Island Chocolate Company produces the candy bars."
You may buy Botero Bars at Cafe Kula; next to Napua Gallery, and they make fun, whimsical, tasty and affordable gifts.
Gilbert, a fabulous mixed-media artist in his own right, also conducts art tours at Grand Wailea at 10 a.m. most Tuesdays and Fridays, starting lobby level at Napua Gallery. Tours are free and open to hotel guests and the public.
The resort's ongoing Passport To The Arts programs are another way for guests and the general public to get more creative. Beginning Watercolor Painting: Maui's Flora and Fauna is taught from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays by artist in residence Mary Faustine at Grand Wailea's scenic koi pond. Fish stencils are available. The class is for those 13 and older.
Outdoor Painting is held from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays. Capture the beauty of Grand Wailea's gardens with artist in residence Roxanne Broadbent. Complete a finished acrylic to take home. You must be 14 years and older.
Outdoor Photography: Light, Gesture and Composition is available 8:30 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Fridays. It's taught by the Grand's above-mentioned art curator Gilbert, also internationally acclaimed as a photographer. In fact, his "Where Angels Fly" mixed media is featured on this week's Maui Scene cover. In the class, all cameras and smart phones are welcome.
Passport to the Arts classes are $40, plus $25 in material fees.
"We also have an Artist in Residence program, and only people who live here can participate,' says Gilbert. "We focus on as many local artists as we can."
The Full Moon Review is quarterly, and and it's a party and a half with champagne for sipping and local art for the eyes. The next one is Feb. 15.
"Napua is also an international gallery. We're bringing in glass chandelier artist Robert Kaindl from Seattle January 26 and 27. He created a chandelier for Paul McCartney and his other one is coming here. It's an amazing piece."
For more details, call 874-0510 or visit www.napuagallery.com.
- Story by Carla Tracy