Known affectionately as “Jim” by his family and “Jay” by his many friends, co-workers and business acquaintances, he devoted his professional career to the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, and, finally, the Honolulu Museum of Art—the organization formed by the merging of the two institutions he loved so much. Jim was born in Waupaca, WI on July 10, 1949 to W. Fred and Lucile Jensen. He grew up on the family farm in the township of Farmington and attended Waupaca High School, graduating in 1967. After earning a B.A. in Art History and an M.A. in Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jim moved to Hawaii in 1976 to work as the administrative assistant to the director. From there he became the museum’s publications editor, then assistant curator, and then curator of Western art. In 1991, he moved to the newly established Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, where he was associate director and chief curator. When the two museums became one as the Honolulu Museum of Art, Jim was made curator of contemporary art. Jim was the consummate curator – he lived and breathed art. He was dedicated to the artists of Hawaii and was a walking encyclopedia of art facts. Jim was well known in the art world and had relationships with major collectors all over the world. An art collector himself, Jim acquired works always with the purpose of gifting his art and books to the museum for the benefit of Hawaii’s residents and visitors.
Jim was preceded in death by his father, W. Fred Jensen, in 2007. He is survived by his 95-year-old mother, Lucile Jensen, of Waupaca; a brother, Lee Jensen and his wife, Jane Kusler-Jensen, of Wild Rose, WI; a sister, Joanne Handler and her husband, Thomas Harrison, of Edgewater, MD, and a brother, Mark Jensen and his special friend, Kelly McGinty, of Waupaca, WI. He is also survived by nieces and nephews – Lucas Jensen, Erica (Brad) McClung, Kate (Ian) Abrey, Rachel Jensen, Lane Handler (fiancé -Ryan Stewart), and Emily Jensen.
Jim’s cremains will be interred at his parents’ gravesite and there will be a memorial celebration of his life for family and friends on July 8 at the Farmington Lutheran Church cemetery at N4414 County Road Q at 11 am. A lunch will follow.