Art of the Aloha Shirt: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938–51

NEW!

Explore the history, artistry, and production of Hawaii’s enduring fashion statement, the Aloha Shirt. This exhibition of sixty objects, including original textile artwork, production sketches and swatches, advertisements, and vintage shirts tells the story of an early innovator, John “Keoni” Meigs, in an industry that has left an indelible mark on fashion in the United States and the world.

Although many claim authorship, the exact origin of the Aloha Shirt remains uncertain. The patterns of Polynesian tapa cloth, the colorful and bold floral designs of Tahitian pareau, and the sheer Japanese fabric used for making kimonos are often cited as some of the early stylistic influences of the shirt. Sometime in the late 1920s to the early 1930s, when Hawaii’s economy began to shift from an agricultural to a service-oriented economy and tourists started flying to Hawaii in ever-increasing numbers, the emphasis of the island clothing industry shifted from the production of work clothes to sports and casualwear. Combining the young islander’s love for colorful clothing with the tourist’s desire to bring home keepsakes of their holidays on the islands, the Aloha Shirt enjoyed massive popularity, particularly after the conclusion of the second World War.

In the history of the Aloha Shirt, there has been no more innovative merchandiser nor better self-promoter than “Keoni of Hawaii.” John “Keoni” Meigs (“Keoni” is Hawaiian for John) was a self-taught painter whose talent became known to the early shirt manufacturers in Honolulu. In 1938, he created his first designs, concentrating on Polynesian tapa patterns inspired by the originals he had studied at the local Bishop Museum.

One of the most innovative Island fabric artists, Keoni is credited with creating as many as three hundred Aloha shirt designs. In Meigs’ words, “In a sense, Aloha shirts put Hawaii on the map. The first thing people did when they arrived was make a beeline for a department store to buy one. A lot of kooky things were designed, but I always tried to be a purist when it came to using motifs from Hawaiian sources.”

Art of the Aloha Shirt is curated by Dale Hope, a Hawaiian native and second generation veteran of the garment industry who authored the definitive book on the subject, The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands, in 2000. Much of the work draws from the collection of Dan Eskenazi, which offers viewers the opportunity to see Aloha shirts from a designer’s perspective, as well as excellent vintage examples of the finished product.

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Availability

Art of the Aloha Shirt: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938–51 will tour June 2018 through May 2023. The dates below reflect seven-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please contact MoreArt@maaa.org or (800) 473-3872 x208/209 for current availability.

  • June 16–August 11, 2018
    available
  • September 1–October 20, 2018
    available
  • November 10, 2018–January 7, 2019
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2019
    Carlsbad, CA
    pending
  • April 6–May 25, 2019
    available
  • June 16–August 11, 2019
    Idabel, OK
    pending
  • September 1–October 20, 2019
    available
  • November 10, 2019–January 7, 2020
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2020 J. Wayne Stark Galleries
    College Station, TX
    pending
  • April 6–May 25, 2020
    available
  • June 16–August 11, 2020 Temecula Valley Museum
    Temecula, CA
    pending
  • September 1–October 20, 2020 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
    booked
  • November 10, 2020–January 7, 2021
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2021
    available
  • April 6–May 25, 2021
    available
  • June 16–October 20, 2021 Upcountry History Museum-Furman University
    Greenville, SC
    pending
  • November 10, 2021–January 7, 2022
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2022
    available
  • April 6–May 25, 2022
    available
  • June 16–August 11, 2022
    available
  • September 1–October 20, 2022
    available
  • November 10, 2022–January 7, 2023
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2023
    available
  • April 6–May 25, 2023
    available

Exhibition Details

Approximately sixty objects, including original textile artwork, production sketches and swatches, advertisements, and vintage shirts

  • Content

    Fee Includes
    Press Kit
    Registrar’s Packet
    Programming Guide
    Text Panels
    Narrative Labels
    Full Insurance
    Installation Instructions
    Custom-Designed and Built Crates

  • Curated By

    Dale Hope, author of The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands (Patagonia)

  • Organized By

    ExhibitsUSA, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO

  • Out-of-Region Rental Fee

    $4,650

  • In-Region Rental Fee

    $3,255

  • Duration

    7-week display

  • Shipping

    Van Line

  • Running Feet

    approximately 235

  • Square Feet

    approximately 535

  • Security

    Moderate B

  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    approximately 4 crates

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by ExhibitsUSA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.