Stop by the new T-shirt “shack” at Ward Village and you’ll find there isn’t much selection — everything for sale is the exact same size and color of a single design. But that’s the point.
Brooklyn, N.Y. artist Emily Spivack is behind the pop-up, which is actually an official off-site installation for the Honolulu Museum of Art. “Medium White Tee” is a monthlong exhibit inspired by a story Spivack read in the New York Times last summer.
According to the Times, President Barack Obama and former White House Chief of Staff (and current Chicago mayor) Rahm Emanuel had once talked about moving to Hawaii and opening a business that only sold medium white T-shirts so they wouldn’t have to make any tough decisions. The conversation became a running joke during stressful meetings, with Emanuel saying “white” and Obama replying, “medium.”
“When I read the Times article, I was moved by the time and care President Obama put into his eight years of service,” Spivack said in a statement. “‘Medium White Tee’ is a tribute to his accomplishments, to the decisions he didn’t run from.
“Ultimately, it’s a thank you. I hope the space serves as a place for contemplation, to meditate on the very significant role that decision-making should play with any president — past, present or future.”
President Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, attended the exhibit’s opening reception Wednesday and also gave her brother the first Medium White Tee made as a holiday gift while the Obamas were in Hawaii last month.
Visitors will be able to purchase T-shirts, priced at $44, with proceeds from sales donated to the Bus Federation Civic fund and Hawaii-based Mala ‘Ai ‘Opio Youth Community Food Systems Initiative (MA’O). The installation will be open at Ward Centre near Bed Bath & Beyond through Feb. 9.
Shirts will also be available for purchase online at mediumwhitetee.com.