There is no shortage of art depicting beach scenes, seascapes, and waves in Hawaii. There are locally produced paintings, carvings, sculptures, and framed photos of salty subjects to be found in the best art galleries on Oahu. The artisan community on the island is as inspired as it is anywhere in the world. However, we want to draw your attention to one of the most unique subjects to date, a world renowned waterman who prefers to let Kanaloa (Hawaiian god of the sea) assist in creating his work.
Mark Cunningham may be best known as a world champion bodysurfer and retired North Shore lifeguard, but he’s quickly equalling his legend as an artist. Mark’s work is self-described as “found art”, incorporating items that he has pulled from the North Pacific reef. The pieces have sunk to the bottom of the sea after being unintentionally abandoned by scuba-divers, snorkelers, seafarers, and surfers. Forsaken items include everything from old toothbrushes and watches to hotel keys and sunglasses. Surfboard fins account for the bulk of it. Some are decades old, and the most visually-striking among them have developed a distinct layer of coral-esque crust. He affixes his found objects to driftwood, rocks, bricks, and other canvases he discovers while combing the shoreline.
What’s really intriguing (and appealing from an investment perspective) is the fact that Mark’s art is a finite resource. There are only so many aged objects left in the reef. Cunningham may have singlehandedly cleaned up the our undersea ecosystem with his treasure hunt. In curating is his art, you’re not only investing in a statement-making mantlepiece or wall-hanger for your home, you’re participating in a sustainable practice that supports the health of Hawaii’s most precious resource. Want to learn more? Let’s dive in.
What to Know About Artist Mark Cunningham’s “Found Objects” Art and Where on Oahu to Find It
Notable Art Exhibits
While Mark has participated in a number of newsworthy exhibits in Hawaii over the years, his profile as an artist jumped significantly after the 2022 Billabong Pipe Masters (aka Pro Pipeline). Mark lent his recognizable work and voice (equally recognizable) to a series of short films called the Pioneers of Pipeline. The series (watch here) commemorates milestones at the world’s most infamous wave.
Where to Buy Mark Cunningham Art on Oahu
While Cunningham’s work is featured in pop-up exhibits on the mainland, such as at Huntington Beach’s Pacific City (pictured above) you’re on the hunt for this waterman’s work while you’re on Oahu. Mark’s art installations can be found from time to time in galleries and coffee houses throughout the island. His work has been on display at ARS Cafe Gallery in Honolulu and is likely to be featured at The Gallery Waikiki, along with other artisan hot spots.
Oahu Art Festivals and Auctions
Cunningham is involved in annual events such as the Haleiwa Arts Festival in July on the North Shore. The most notable is the Punahou Carnival “Art Gallery” which is Hawaii’s largest art show. Each year, the fundraising event features the works of some of Hawaii’s finest artists – including Cunningham who has become a staple at the last few. From 2020-2022 the event became an online auction, and we expect the online auction to continue even when the on-premises event returns for 2023 and beyond. The show/auction runs from late January into the first week of February each year. If you’re on the island, check in with us on Instagram to keep up to date with his (and other local artists’) up and coming exhibits. Otherwise, you can buy his work directly at the following:
The Cove Collection at Shark’s Cove
The Cove Collection is a cool boutique gallery at Shark’s Cove in Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s located adjacent to the famed Shark’s Cove food trucks. Cunningham’s art is on display here, with prices ranging from just under $100 up towards $400 – very affordable for iconic one-of-a-kind pieces. Some of his items at the Pioneers of Pipeline auction went for more than $1200. Here’s how to get to the Cove Collection on the North Shore.
The Cove Collection at Outrigger Reef in Waikiki
The Cove Collection has another location within the lobby of the Outrigger Reef resort. This is a convenient place to buy Cunningham’s art when you’re staying in Waikiki Beach. Here’s how to get to the Outrigger Reef.
Are you visiting Oahu and wondering if there are currently any exhibits featuring Mark Cunningham “Found Art”? Leave a comment below and we’ll let you know. Yes, we actually reply!