The Art of Tiki: No False Idols

Exhibition: Oct 6-29
Book release & signing party 6-8PM
Artist Reception 8-11PM
Friday, October 6

Click here to access the available pieces in the 21st Anniversary Tiki Show

The No False Idols portion of The Art of Tiki exhibition features the world’s first and most comprehensive public offering of original, mid-century Tiki décor. Commercial carvings, fixtures, furniture and lighting from some of the most famous and obscure Tiki temples hailing from the mid-century era are for the first time for sale to the public. Famed establishments as Trader Vic’sKona Kai and Kon Tiki are represented as well as renowned artists such as Leroy SchmaltzBarney WestWilliam WestenhaverJim CaseyMilan GuankoRichard Ellis and Andres Bumatay.

Artifacts originating from the heart of the mid-century Polynesian-Pop era include figural carvings, architectural fittings, decorative trim, hanging décor and more. All sourced from a single, well curated private collection, the assortment on offer covers everything from home and restaurant décor to rare Polynesian-themed apartment complex art.

This assemblage of vintage commercial art is unprecedented. The rarity of such ephemeral “survivor” specimens is a testament to the short life and sad death of the original Tiki era.

Most if not all of the pieces on this page have the additional provenance of being published in the book, The Art of Tiki by Sven Kirsten. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience all the ‘world of Tiki’ has to offer!

The Kona Kai, Philadelphia, PA


Created in a ‘not to be outdone’ competition between the titan hotel empires, Marriott commissioned an elaborate chain of its own Polynesian themed restaurants. As a shot across the bow to Hilton’s Trader Vic’s and Sheraton’s Kon TikiThe Kona Kai was arguably the most obscenely extravagant of the challengers on the field. No expense was spared and rather than utilize stock or simply procured décor for it’s outfitting, practically every decorative element of the Philly location was custom designed and created. Wall treatments, tropical carpeting and signature figural Tiki carvings were all fashioned from tailor-made blueprints furnished by the prolific architects. Saved in a daring last minute rescue during the The Kona Kai’s tragic 1985 demolition, the exquisite carvings on offer here at La Luz de Jesus are testaments to this now mythic Taj-Mahal of mid-century Tiki opulence.

Kona Kai, Philadelphia, PA: Armet and Davis Architecture




Kona Kai, Kansas City, KS: Oceanic Arts

Where described as damaged, understand that these pieces survived a restaurant fire. The patina of charred wood is provenance of the authenticity of this collection–and forever ties them specifically to Kona Kai, Kansas City.


The Playa del Rey Polynesian Village Apartments, Playa del Rey, CA


Located in a surprisingly welcomed proximity of just over 3200 feet from the North tarmac of the Los Angeles Airport, The Polynesian Village Apartment complex was the epitome of primitive, space-age bachelor pad living for 1962. Designed again by prolific mid-century architects, Armet & Davis, the immersive environment featured a stylishly themed atmosphere, complete with 24/7 flaming gas Tiki torches and cascading lava rock waterfalls. Made in a series of three sister developments across Los Angeles county, the dingbat cubist apartment structures were adorned with redwood carvings by the renowned sculptor team of Andres Bumatay and Richard Ellis. Astonishingly, no two figures are alike and the contemporary free form nature of these rescued artifacts endure as the quintessential definition of “Tiki-Modern”.

On offer in the gallery are exquisite relics from this storied testament to American suburban fantasy.



Trader Vic’s Decor

Trader Vic’s, various worldwide locations

Recognized as the champion and ‘last man standing’ of the epochal Tiki chain wars, Victor Bergeron’s, Trader Vic’s is also perhaps the most beloved. Like “Don the Beachcomber”before him, Bergeron fashioned himself into the quasi-autobiographical living mascot of his business. Decades before Dos Equis beer made the boastful corporate claim for its representative, Trader Vic was arguably the world’s most interesting man!

Trader Vic’s truly lived up to the hype, presenting the best from Vic’s own supposed far- flung exploits. Mementos of his swashbuckling adventures functioned as décor and specialized exotic cuisines served as a tactile account of his distant travels. This was themed-environmental dining at its apex. Oh, but the drinks! Picking up and sprinting with the torch passed by Donn Beach, Trader Vic’s also featured a centerpiece bar in each of its locations with the most thorough, imaginative and closely guarded exotic cocktail recipes in the world!

The artifacts offered here at La Luz de Jesus host a fair representation of the high caliber décor Trader Vic’s featured in its many locations across the globe. Some of these date back to Trader Vic’s earliest days and include locations such as Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Scottsdale, New York, Washington, DC, St. Louis, Osaka, Japan and in addition a partly completed, never opened location in Detroit dating from 1963! Everything from Hawaiian war shields to Marquesan figural poles and sculptured idols are represented in this rarely offered selection.





Contact Gallery Director Matthew Gardocki for purchase info:  (323)666-7667