When the Seattle Art Museum turned 80 years old in 2013, it had become clear that it was not only the most prominent museum of general art in America’s Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) had become one of the most important museums across the nation.
The museum features an expanded building, more than double the exhibition space compared to the former situation, an enlarged and massively improved collection. The whole operation was an ambitious effort to turn the museum’s intentions into reality. The regional rank of the Seattle Art Museum has never really been challenged, but this was more by default as the competition is slim.
The museum features a very small European collection that’s mediocre overall, and not comprehensive at all. The museum boasts a great porcelain collection, but if you want to find a painting by Picasso, you’re in the wrong spot. There are quite a few educational programs and exhibits, many of which are geared towards educating underprivileged youth who need some extra support to get ahead in life, for example, high school dropouts who are getting ready for the GED test.
So beware, if you believe that a first-class general art museum should be stuffed with sculptures that date back from ancient Rome and Greece to rambunctious 20th-century launches, or classic European paintings, the Seattle Art Museum is not your cup of tea. Two of the museum’s long-standing traditions and strengths are actually African art and Pacific Northwest Native American art. The museum features a very small European collection that’s mediocre overall, and not comprehensive at all. The museum boasts a great porcelain collection, but if you want to find a painting by Picasso, you’re in the wrong spot.