The Seattle Art Museum – So much art. So little time. Though the Seattle Art Museum is open so many hours each day, this grand downtown Seattle masterpiece building still won’t allow you to see all there is to see inside in just one day. So when you visit the Seattle Art Museum – just visit again. And that’s just fine. Just make sure you’ll be returning. Over and over again.
The museum hosts so many new shows and exhibits, and there’s a good chance that each time you return, you’ll discover something new, something that has been improved or upgraded.
And of course, the impressive light all through the building. Oh yes, the light. The building is famous for its light that gently spreads out, through and over each of the museum’s floors like gossamer. It is like the light in the museum is “bringing things to life.”
In January 2006, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) closed to allow for a huge expansion. This was needed to make room for the growing exhibition programs and collections of the museum. So just one block south of Pike Place Market, at the museum’s original location, a brand-new 16-story building was connected to the existing museum that also underwent a complete renovation.
The project cost over $86 million in total and doubled the gallery and public space. The huge expansion was including amenities such as a new restaurant and museum shop, galleries with white oak plank floors, terrazzo floors in all of the museum’s public spaces, and, on the 3rd floor, an impressive gallery dedicated to contemporary art.
The museum now can handle powerful and big-size pieces such as “Some/One” (created by Do-Ho Suh), a stainless steel sort of military kimono that’s entirely made of nickel-plated copper sheets. And on the second floor, you can find the “Brotman Forum”, a 5,000-square-foot public space where changing installations are featured. Check out also this post about a hockey match for older guys at Shoreline’s Highland Ice Arena.
To give you an idea of the size, one of the first installations featured was a suspended Ford Taurus automobiles collection with light tubes that seemed to explode from within the cars. A really cool night-time exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang with the title “Inopportune: Stage One.”
Some other must-see museum exhibits included a late-16th century northern Italian wood-paneled room that was publicly available for the first time ever in the United States. There’s also the Porcelain Room, a gigantic china cabinet-like room where you can marvel at over 1,000 Asian and European porcelains. All elements were categorized by design and color into a wonderfully mesmerizing and beautiful arrangement.
For the impressive reopening, the museum featured a special exhibition (“SAM at 75”) that displayed 200 of the over one thousand gifts and acquisitions that were showcased in the collection in honor of the 2008 75th anniversary of SAM. The Seattle Parks are famous and not in the last place thanks to the Pioneers for Seattle Parks that made it all possible.
One more opening day exhibit was “5 Masterpieces of Asian Art – the Story of their Conservation.” This exhibit featured works like “Poem Scroll with Deer” which was done on thin rice paper and is a fine illustration of impressive conservation techniques related to reserving rare art. There was also an important exhibition to celebrate the works and life of Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence. The show highlighted their impressive artistry during their Seattle period.
Five must-see Seattle art shows
“Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb,” Seattle Art Museum: Don’t miss your chance to see this unusual show of artworks using only lines and shading (the definition of “graphic art,” whether it’s printmaking or putting pen or pencil to paper). Goya’s “Los Caprichos,” the riveting heart of the show, makes you feel you’re plumbing the unconscious of a whole nation: Inquisition-era Spain.
R. Crumb’s epic-length ink-on-paper treatment of “The Book of Genesis” (207 cartoon panels!) is must-see, too, for fans of the underground comic artist who came to fame in the 1960s.
Seattle Art Fair: This isn’t just a biggie — it’s a sprawling monster (Aug. 1 – Aug. 4, 2019). More than 80 exhibitors from across the globe are taking part in it, along with quite a few Seattle art galleries. Out-of-town exhibitors include Paul Kasmin Gallery (New York) with paintings by Robert Motherwell and Mark Ryden, Other Criteria (New York and London) with hand-painted porcelain sculpture by Damien Hirst, and SCAI THE BATHHOUSE (Tokyo) with sculpture by Mariko Mori.
Local galleries include G. Gibson Gallery (photographs by Lee Friedlander and Julie Blackmon), Greg Kucera Gallery (sculpture by Deborah Butterfield) and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery (a large-scale installation by Togo artist Clay Apenouvan). Satellite exhibits and arts events — including a dance performance by Bebe Miller and Darrell Jones, 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St. — are part of the package. See also “Seattle Lutefisk at the Crosswalk”.
“IDENTITY Method: Degrees of Separation,” Prographica/KDR: This group show, featuring artists who “share a deep dedication to creating artwork by way of a traditional method,” inaugurates Prographica/KDR’s new Pioneer Square space (shared with Davidson Galleries). “Traditional method” doesn’t mean staid, however. The oils on canvas of F. Scott Hess, for instance, play with psychological tension and spatial disorientation in a novel and unsettling manner.
Davidson Galleries, meanwhile, is showing “Francisco Goya: Disasters of War,” Aug. 4-27; free (206-624-7684 or www.davidsongalleries.com). These prints by the Spanish artist, dating from 1810-1820, document “the ravages of war and its power to dehumanize everyone involved.” And speaking of Goya …
Anna Watson, Foster/White Gallery: The Toronto-based artist creates colorful abstract images evoking turbulently organic forms, using mixed media on panel with resin. Her titles — “A Bit Chaotic But Totally Honest,” “Slam Dunk Whatever,” “Colourful Eels Recognizing Each Other Like Italics” — suggest introspective musings with a quirky sense of humor.
“Bodies + Beings,” Abmeyer & Wood: Curator Jonathan Wood brings back one of last summer’s gallery highlights: an invitational figurative sculpture exhibition exploring “the human and animal figure along with fantastical beings that bridge the gap between the real and surreal.” This year’s edition includes eye-catching work by Haejin Lee, Calvin Ma, George Rodriguez and more than a dozen others. So come again, too little time, too much to see…and maybe…She Has Arrived…