Seattle Art Museum Review

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 modest 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.

The Seattle Art Museum can play an important role in helping teens develop self-confidence. In BestGEDClasses online prep, for example, young learners are recommended to visit the Seattle Art Museum. They recognize that the Museum’s programs may help students discover undeveloped talents and skills, which can give them a very important boost in confidence.

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.

If you want to appreciate the Seattle Art Museum, you need to go past conventional expectations. If you can, you will discover a great and important museum that has been rethinking and reinventing itself in a smart way over recent years. The museum is known for its larger aspiration and has been looking to expand its importance, relevance, and strength through two very productive sources. One source lies in the museum’s historic strengths that relatively easily could be further enriched, and the other source was Seattle’s private collections. Local collectors who wanted to make massive and important donations earlier had no significant place to go locally. Now they did, and they were proud of it.

The Neo-Modern upgrade
In 1991, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM — as the museum is known) had opened a horribly designed “Postmodern” building that was designed by the architect firm “Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates”. This disgusting building which was more like a grand staircase that was cascading down Seattle’s University Street, about a block south of Pike Place Market. This ugly creation had a few awkwardly situated galleries attached to it, and it seemed the clumsy design was more like a study for the architects’ Sainsbury Wing at London’s National Gallery (how wonderful).

The new, Neo-Modern building by Brad Cloepfil offers straightforward, nicely proportioned, expandable gallery spaces, while deftly absorbing the older building. Fortunately, the museum’s new building is offering nicely proportioned, expandable, and straightforward gallery spaces in which the old building is totally absorbed.

In the meanwhile, SAM has been doing what it’s good at, collecting collections. More than forty have already been tapped (all – or in part), and the new building cleverly functions as the new, shiny container. The impressive result is a pretty much textbook-like example of how we should develop major museum collections while developing a highly functional and beautiful gallery space.

The Seattle Art Museum first opened its doors during the most difficult days of the Great Depression (1933) and was housed in a beautiful Art Deco building in Seattle’s leafy Volunteer Park. At that location, the museum acquired a highly admired collection of historical East Asian Art. Mimi Gardner Gates (SAM’s director until 2009) is an internationally recognized specialist in this field, and all of the museum’s scrolls, screens, and sculptures are on display in the museum’s original building in Volunteer Park: the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM).

 

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