Seattle Art Museum

Whew! Last week was a crazy work week, so I didn’t have time to post, but I seem to be on top of things again. Posting will resume as the original scheduling, so if all goes as plan, there will be another post next Tuesday. Two more destinations, including this one, and then I will be done with Seattle for now. First of the two is…

Seattle Art Museum, located in Seattle, Washington


The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The museum is open on Wednesday from 10am to 5pm, Thursday from 10am to 9pm, and Friday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is $19.95, however the museum is free to all on the first Thursday of each month and the special exhibition is half priced. (I took advantage of that first Thursday, so I got in for free and opted not to see the special exhibition.) The museum is located in downtown Seattle and one block from Pike Place Market, so it is easily accessible on foot. Since it’s in downtown Seattle, SAM can be reached via public transportation and car. If you choose to drive, please note there is no free parking, but there are garages nearby with varying rates.  The museum allows photography mostly, but there are some galleries that don’t allow it, so be sure to keep an eye out for the no photography signs. (Not sure if I ran into any of those.)

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The Seattle Art Museum is housed in a four story building, but only the third and fourth floors are used for the art galleries. There are entries to the museum on both the first and second floors, but the main entrance to the galleries and the ticketing area is on the second floor. Right in front of the ticketing area is a car and tube light bulbs display that is quite interesting and hard to miss. A recurring theme in Washington state is glass work, so it’s not a surprise that the museum contains an exhibit on glass, entitled “Glass at Pilchuck: Making History”, which is still on display until July 31, 2016. The exhibition focuses on the Pilchuck Glass School and the works of artists associated with it. Next is “From Abstract Expression to Colored Planes”, which was on view from March 16, 2013 to August 1, 2015. The exhibit showcased abstract works done by New York based artists in the 1940s to the 1960s. Following is “The Duchamp Effect”, which is on display until July 24, 2016. This exhibit is quite fascinating as it features common everyday items that are presented in such a way that it is considered a work of art, and redefines the concept of what is a work of art.

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Next is the “Personal Histories” exhibit that was on display from July 5, 2014 to May 3, 2015. The artwork in this exhibit focused on the histories of minorities and groups that are often forgotten in official historical narratives. “Out of the Box: Joseph Cornell and Ken Price”, which was on display from February 28, 2015 to August 16, 2015, showcased  the works of Joseph Cornell and Ken Price. The pieces were three dimensional pieces that focused on the beauty of everyday objects. Another exhibit that is no longer on display is “Cool Objectivity”, on display from January 10, 2015 to August 6, 2015. All the art on display were photographs of industrial architecture. “Remains of the Day” is an exhibit that is still ongoing, not sure till when. The artists featured in this exhibition are all new generation artists and focuses on how they have to redefine their styles to distinguish themselves from previous others. “Paintings and Drawings of the European Avant-Garde: The Rubinstein Bequest” is another ongoing exhibit at the SAM. All the works in this gallery were donated by Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, and at this time focuses on the works of artists who lived in Paris in the early 20th century.

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The museum has a whole section that is focused on American art. One of the exhibits in the section is entitled “Myth and Symbol in Early Modern American Art”. The works featured in this exhibit focuses on myths and symbols often found in nature and religion. The other section for American art seems to highlight all forms of art made in America.

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Up next is “Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast”, an exhibit that is currently still ongoing. This exhibit features works of natives who inhabited the area, in addition to contemporary works that highlight the traditions of the natives. In a small alcove near the previous exhibit, the museum features some Mayan artwork.(Not sure if it’s still there or not.) Finishing up on the third floor is “Nature and Pattern in Japanese Design”, which was on display from December 21, 2013 to April 19, 2015. The exhibit features a variety of Japanese artwork, there is even a tea house. (I’m more preferential to East Asian artwork, so I enjoyed this exhibit the best.)

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Starting immediately on the fourth floor, right as you step off the escalators is a section on African Art. This section contains a variety of life size figures and masks. In the Boeing gallery, right next to the African art, visitors can view a multitude of sculptures that were once placed in altars of worship in the African culture. I found the care coffin in the gallery very interesting, it is a contemporary innovation as the quickest way to heaven.

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The following gallery focuses on ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art. Visitors can view various Islamic, Egyptian, Greek and Roman art. (Turns out I have a preference for Greek art, too. I like the mythology incorporated into some of the works.)

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Next up is the European art gallery, which is separated into several sections. First is the section “Now and Forever”, which contains portraits of wealthy 16th century Italians who considered themselves worthy of commemoration. Painters strove to capture the uniqueness of an individual that would endure through the ages, hence these portraits were often displayed in affluent homes alongside works of arts and beautiful objects. Following is the “Italian Room”, a wood paneled room that captures the essence of a 16th century  northern Italian home. The hallway connecting the Italian room to the other European artwork contains an exhibit known as “Only Connect: The Art of Devotion”, which features a variety of art relating to Christianity. “Conscious Constructions” features pieces spanning 250 years that include works from the High Renaissance, mannerism and baroque art.

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“The Porcelain Room” features over a thousand European and Asian porcelain pieces. In the modern world, porcelain is an everyday item, but at one point in time, it was a treasured commodity, even rivaling the value of gold. (The collection is very large, I don’t think I’ve seen so much plates and vases in one setting.) The following exhibit “Europe Imagines the East” is an ongoing exhibit at the SAM. European artists became more fascinated with the ideas of China during the 17th and 18th centuries as global trade increased, thus chinoiserie came about. Chinoiserie is an imitation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture and architecture. “Venice at the Crossroads” features a variety of work from Venice. “France: Inside and Out” is another ongoing exhibit that showcases a variety of art pieces that highlight the developments in French painting and design in the 19th century.


Last, but not least is “African Art Takes a Stretch”, which was on display from May 24, 2014 to September 7, 2015. The pieces in this exhibit were then newly acquired by the museum, and features 20th and 21st century African art. Displaying them alongside each other allows viewers to see how African art has changed in 100 years.

I spent approximately 3 hours at the museum, and I didn’t even see the special exhibit, which goes to demonstrate how much the museum has to see. Probably half my time spent can be allocated to taking photographs, so other visitors may spend less time if they are just browsing or more if they are art aficionados. Although the museum has a lot to offer, I’m not really sure I would have paid almost $20 to visit, I would definitely pay for entry if it was $15, but $20 seems a bit steep. ($5 is a big difference, I can get a meal in some places.) The SAM is definitely for anyone who appreciates art, but not really ideal for families with children and anyone not remotely interested in art. The Seattle Art Museum is a great experience, but if you are unsure about how much you will enjoy it, wait for the free admission day each month, and check it out.


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