Exhibits at the SAM
Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement
June 13 - September 8, 2019
As industrialization brought sweeping and dehumanizing changes to 19th-century England, a small group of artists reasserted the value of the handmade. Calling themselves the Pre-Raphaelites, they turned to the unlikely model of medieval European craftsmen as a way of moving forward. Victorian Radicals presents an unprecedented 145 paintings, drawings, books, sculpture, textiles, and decorative arts—many never before exhibited outside of the UK—by the major artists associated with this rebellious brotherhood.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, and William Morris dubbed themselves the Pre-Raphaelites in reaction to the Royal Academy of Arts, whose methods to artmaking they regarded to be as formulaic as industrial methods of production. This movement had broad implications and inspired a wide range of industries to rebel against sterility and strive to connect art to everyday life.
The Pre-Raphaelites and members of the later Arts & Crafts movement operated from a moral commitment to honest labor, the handmade object, and the ability of art to heal a society dehumanized by industry and mechanization. The works of the men and women presented in the exhibition illustrate a spectrum of avant-garde practices of the Victorian period and demonstrate Britain’s first modern art response to industrialization. These artists’ attention to detail, use of vibrant colors, and engagement with both literary themes and contemporary life, is evident in the paintings, watercolors, and superb examples of decorative art on view. Drawing on the renowned collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, England, Victorian Radicals is a comprehensive consideration of the search for beauty in the age of industry.
Claire Partington: Taking Tea
December 7 2018 - December 6 2020
Get a new perspective on SAM’s popular Porcelain Room through the site-specific work of contemporary British ceramic artist Claire Partington. Taking Tea features an installation referencing Baroque painting and European porcelain factories, as well as a panel mounted with fragments from 17th- and 18th-century shipwrecks. The Porcelain Room is a SAM favorite for visitors with more than 1,000 European and Asian porcelain pieces from SAM's collection grouped to evoke porcelain as a treasured commodity between the East and the West.
Claire Partington reappraises the narrative histories of the porcelain objects. Her figures engaged in the act of “taking tea” give a human face to the European craze for Chinese porcelain on display in the Porcelain Room. Partington’s installation suggests the often unintentional consequences of the porcelain trade during the expansion of international shipping routes. The figures in the installation are steeped in the rarified luxury and high-end fashion these items once conveyed, but they also expose the degrading aspects of trade—the reality of precarious ocean voyages and human exploitation.
April 27 - December 8 2019
Music and sound offer a path for artists exploring personal and cultural histories and real and imagined spaces. The works here range from the documentary and deadpan to the lyrical, contrasting and harmonizing in unexpected ways.
Robert Morris’s influential 1963 object and recording, Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, created a new consideration of artistic process as the artist recorded himself while he made this work. Decades later we are still in the room with the artist, listening to him hammering, sawing, sanding, and taking breaks. The work’s importance is evident in Jonathan Monk’s homage, a vinyl audio record with the misleading title “The Sound of Music.” If you expect songs by the Trapp family, you will be disappointed. Monk’s record plays the sounds made when the record was manufactured.
Isaac Layman’s photograph of a furniture-sized stereo provides a physical connection to the music experience even though the speakers are turned away from us. Alyssa Phebus Mumtaz gives Leonard Cohen’s song lyrics a sensuous presence. Victoria Haven monumentalizes a mixed tape of personal significance. We can also contemplate the primordial personification of a scream, the suggestion of birdsong, and a range of topographies—from the suggestion of backyard aesthetics to more abstract ventures.
The photographs of a Nirvana performance take us back to a historic event, just as Ed Ruscha’s little book of records charts seismic shifts in the music scenes of the 1960s, from Otis Redding and Carla Thomas to Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground.
Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap
May 11 2019 - March 8 2020
Brazilian artist Regina Silveira (b. 1939) creates mind-bending temporary interventions that have an almost surreal flare that alter our perceptions of our physical environment. Ranging from shadows cast on a wall to footprints or large-scale insects taking over buildings, city streets, and public parks around the world, Silveira has become known for her installations of “magnetized space” which examine the ways superimposed images change the meaning of an existing architecture or space. Some of her installations have the appearance of occupations, infestations, or supernatural visitations; others seem to be fantastical apparitions that suspend the laws of nature and perception.
Octopus Wrap entangles the Olympic Sculpture Park’s PACCAR Pavilion in an elaborate pattern of tire tracks, taking off from five toy motorcycles positioned on the interior mural wall. Silveira’s latest architectural installation draws inspiration from the park’s location at the intersection of several busy thoroughfares. As you approach and enter the building, you are observing their progress via their intersecting tire tracks. When seen from a distance, the undulating tracks create another, larger image, one that ensnares the architecture as if within the arms of an octopus. The installation will be temporary, but the new images and sensations it creates will enter our memory and form a lasting imprint of a different kind.
On The Edge
“The personal is political” became a rallying cry for the second-wave feminist movement in the late 1960s and ‘70s, forcefully declaring that women’s personal experiences are intrinsically related to broader social and political issues. Embracing this premise, the artists in this gallery confront sociopolitical issues facing women today through the lens of personal lives and experiences.
They employ a diverse range of stylistic means to advance their objectives. Some, like Chicago-based artist Hollis Sigler, work with an intentionally simple, graphic style to position themselves outside of male-dominated artistic traditions and aesthetics. At the other end of the spectrum are artists like Clint Brown, who adopt pop art’s polished surfaces and reproductive processes to point to the underbelly of a slick corporate world. Other artists wield a wry and acerbic sense of humor to challenge gender stereotypes, such as in the tongue-in-cheek ceramics of Seattle-based artist Patti Warashina. Collectively, these artists push the limits on some of the most pressing issues of their time and today, including gender equity and sexual politics in the workplace, women’s health, and stereotypes of femininity and sexuality.
Gentlewoman: Art of the Samurai
March 16 - December 1, 2019
In popular conception, samurai are often portrayed as those who have martial might, while their engagements in cultural activities are not as well represented.
Gentleman Warrior: Art of the Samurai offers a multifaceted view of the samurai culture. More than 20 works from the museum’s collection and two sets of samurai armor on loan will demonstrate the important roles samurai played in the tea ceremony, Noh theater, and Buddhist practices, as well as the art of armor and battles.
You Are On Indigenous Land: Places/Displaces
April 6, 2019 - June 28 2020
Everywhere you walk, you are on Indigenous land. Whether spoken in reverence or shouted in protest, whether considering the past, present, or future, even when dislocated from homelands, the central issue for Indigenous people will always be the land and sovereignty. Indigenous territories describe the ancestral and contemporary connections of Indigenous peoples to a geographical area defined by kinship ties, occupation, seasonal travel routes, trade networks, resources, spiritual beliefs, and cultural and linguistic connections to place. Politically, the “land question” between First Peoples and governments is rooted in competing ideas of authority and clashing conceptions of identity and ownership.
The artists in this exhibition use traditional and contemporary visual expressions that acknowledge the interconnectedness of humans and the land and the critical need to protect the earth against degradation. Traditional art forms like basketry, wood carving, and weaving are storehouses of memory, marking ancestral origins and movements across the landscape. New forms of storytelling in painting, printmaking, and video create new spaces for justice and understanding.
Lessons from The Institute of Empathy
Three Empathics have moved into Seattle Art Museum and are a central feature to the latest installation imagined in our African art galleries. The popular and immersive ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space by contemporary artist Saya Woolfalk was first shown in Disguise: Masks and Global African Art (2015). Now part of SAM’s permanent collection and installed in Lessons from the Institute of Empathy, the Empathics have surrounded themselves with works from our African art collection as a way to help visitors awaken their own empathy.
Upon entering you will experience a virtual space where you can step outside your normal, routine self and improve your ability to understand others. If you wonder about your empathic abilities, you are not alone. Empathy—the ability to understand the experiences of others—is a skill that’s said to have eroded in the modern world. The result is Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD).
The Empathics display their trademarked process for transformation and ask you to consider the other artwork around you.
Hear & Now
April 24 - July 15 2019
Hear & Now is a collaborative kinetic sound sculpture. The work was created by internationally celebrated artist, composer, and musician Trimpin in collaboration with Path with Art student artists who have lived experience of homelessness. This music machine is situated on an antique hand-pulled wagon originally built by Trimpin’s father in Germany. The work blends sculpture, poetry, electronic composition and performance with the aim to “unpack” the human experiences encompassed in homelessness. In Trimpin’s words, the piece is “a metaphor for being in constant transition.”
Trimpin composed a number of scores based on notations and recordings developed in workshops with the student artists.
Viewers are invited to activate the sculpture by pressing the play button situated next to the object.
Hear & Now is free and accessible to all in the museum’s First and Union entrance lobby. Following its installation at the Seattle Art Museum, it will be on view at two additional venues to be announced.
April 22 2018- February 23 2020
In the first decade of the 20th century, American photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz offered a rousing alternative to the European artists then dominating the art world. He showcased the homegrown talents of four bold young painters: Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and John Marin. Despite unmistakable individual styles, these artists shared a daring approach to color and created forms that evoked rather than described nature. Important examples of their work can be viewed in SAM’s new permanent collection installation American Modernism.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s Music—Pink and Blue No. 1 and Marsden Hartley’s Painting No. 49, Berlin are centerpieces of the installation. These two paintings were milestone gifts to the collection by renowned collector, philanthropist, and former SAM trustee, Barney A. Ebsworth, who passed away in April 2018.
Big Picture: Art After 1945
In the decades following World War II, New York emerged as a new center of contemporary art in the Western hemisphere, eclipsing Paris in importance. It was a moment of bold beginnings. The gestural painting styles that developed in the United States in the late 1940s and ‘50s had unprecedented explosive energy and grew out of an experimentation with painting as an expression of the subconscious. These were the landmark beginnings of abstract expressionism and its concurrent artistic movements—from intense fields of color, to minimal manipulation of surface and texture, to artists learning from dance and movement and examining the everyday.
Big Picture presents these vibrant developments in painting and sculpture as an ongoing and evolving exhibition. As the galleries change, new connections and points of departure will be uncovered.
Material Difference: German Perspectives
March 1 2019 - April 26 2020
In Europe, the physical and psychological devastation of World War II had a profound effect on artists’ subjects, methods, and use of materials far beyond the immediate post-war years. Photographs taken along the Russian front lines by the Soviet photojournalist Dmitry Baltermants show the tremendous suffering and loss of human life during the war. Presented alongside Anselm Kiefer’s large-scale allegorical and heavily layered works created in the 1980s and 90s and Katharina Fritsch’s surreal sculpture, Mann und Maus (1991–92), Material Difference offers perspectives across time as German artists, writers, and scholars contended with the trauma of the Jewish genocide and the failure of an entire generation.
As Germany divided into East and West, the country’s history remained front and central to artists well into the new millennium and these artists ask questions about the role and responsibility of the artist, questions that reverberate long past the immediate phase of reconstruction and into the present.
Inspired by a single historical event, in this gallery we consider the notion that actions speak louder than words. In 1970, Chancellor Willy Brandt became the first German ruler to visit the country of Poland since Nazi Germany invaded in 1939. Rather than make a speech, Brandt laid a wreath on a monument to the thousands of Poles killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Then he knelt down and silently bowed his head. Photographs of this gesture circulated around the world. Over 40 years later, Seattle sculptor Akio Takamori memorialized Brandt’s mute apology as a moving expression of deference and humility rarely practiced by today’s leaders.
Brandt’s kneeling position recalls the submissive posture of a donor shown in a European religious painting by Bernardo Daddi that is also in this gallery—look for the small figure gazing up in adoration in the painting Virgin and Child. Kneeling also reflects the attitude of a penitent saint humbled by his own sinfulness. But gestures can also be uplifting—a raised hand encourages elevated thoughts. And sometimes, collective love—whether joyful or grief-stricken—generates a flow of gestures and responses that unite the whole community.
Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast
Over their long habitation of the Pacific Northwest, First Peoples have shaped their lifeways around the resources of the water, forests, valleys, and mountains. In tandem, they have developed rich oral traditions and ceremonies that link inextricably to this region.
With this installation of SAM’s collection of Northwest Coast art, visitors will encounter the creative expressions of generations of artists who created forms for daily life, for potlatch ceremonies, and for spiritual balance. The presence of contemporary arts, shown alongside historical forms, highlight the vitality of traditions that are being re-envisioned for present times.
John Grade: Middle Fork
John Grade’s large-scale sculpture, Middle Fork, echoes the contours of a 140-year-old western hemlock tree located in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.
Beginning by making a full plaster cast of the living tree, the artist and a cadre of volunteers used this mold to recreate the tree’s form out of thousands of pieces of reclaimed old-growth cedar. Middle Fork was conceived and fabricated at MadArt Studio and made its Seattle debut there in January 2015. The original work was 40-feet long and will more than double in length for its installation in the Brotman Forum.
Cosmic Beings in Mesoamerican and Andean Art
Over vast geographical expanses and several millennia, a mosaic of cultures developed in ancient Mesoamerica and the Andean regions of South America. Some of these diverse cultures evolved from humble agricultural communities into complex cultural centers with spectacular cities and refined arts. Each had sophisticated belief systems about the origins of the universe and the roles of all the human and supernatural beings contained within. Ritual protocols—like shamanic transformations, human alliances with animal spirit companions, and the reenactment of myths—blurred the boundaries between the human and cosmic zones.
The arts in this gallery depict ancestors, humans, gods, supernatural animals, and monsters in ceramic, stone, shell, and animal. Visual symbols and narratives seen on ceremonial vessels, tomb sculptures, and personal adornment illuminate how early peoples grappled with the fundamental questions of existence, immortality, and the nature of the universe around them.
Walkabout: The Art of Dorothy Napangardi
May 5, 2018 - March 7, 2021
Walking becomes a rhythm that adjusts to each landscape we cross. Translating that rhythm into paint became a goal for one artist who walked hundreds of miles across her homeland. Dorothy Napangardi was born in the Tanami Desert of Australia, where a crystalline salt-lake region played a powerful role in her life. She spoke of the unconditional happiness and freedom she felt when she traversed her family’s country and slept beside them with stars as a canopy.
A gallery filled with her paintings from 2000–13 takes us to the shimmering salt lake, where she absorbed indigenous laws and stories from the land and her family. Her individual style of intricate dotting can suggest a vast aerial perspective or a microscopic maze.
Vast quantities of translucent, elegantly decorated white-bodied porcelain from China and Japan, arriving in Europe in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, heightened Europeans’ fervor for these wondrous wares. In royal palaces, great houses of the aristocracy, and homes of the rising merchant class made wealthy by trade, specially designed rooms showcased porcelain from floor to ceiling as crowning jewels in an integrated architectural and decorative scheme.
Brimming with more than one thousand magnificent European and Asian pieces from SAM's collection, the Porcelain Room has been conceived to blend visual excitement with an historical concept. Rather than the standard museum installation arranged by nationality, manufactory, and date, our porcelain is grouped by color and theme. Today, when porcelain is everywhere in our daily lives, this room evokes a time when it was a treasured trade commodity—sometimes rivaling the value of gold—that served as a cultural, technological, and artistic interchange between the East and the West.
Some of the works on view in the Porcelain Room date back to the 17th century, but this beloved gallery at SAM has stepped into the 21st century with new digital kiosks located at both entrances of the Porcelain Room. Use the interactive experience to gain a brief history of porcelain, zoom in on each of the artworks for a closer look, and read caption information, including the type of object, date, and origin.
Emblems of Encounter: Europe and Africa Over 500 Years
Looking back 500 years, one can see the late 15th century as a major turning point in history. When Portuguese navigators first arrived on the shores of West Africa, the two continents of Europe and Africa began interacting in new ways. After a very brief period of mutual respect and commercial exchange, European traders quickly moved to exploit the region’s natural resources—including human labor—which became the basis for the massive slave trade that eventually affected twenty million Africans.
The ten works of European and African art in this gallery, dating from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 20th, have been selected from SAM’s collection as examples of these interactions over time. Bringing them together in this context reminds us that works of art contain multiple meanings and associations that can be viewed through different perspectives. Even small works connect us with a long and complex history that has shaped many aspects of our world today.
Pure Amusements: Wealth, Leisure, and Culture in Late Imperial China
A new installation, Pure Amusements: Wealth, Leisure, and Culture in Late Imperial China features Chinese works ranging from prints to sculpture and furnishings to ceramics drawn from SAM's collection and focused on objects created for, and enjoyed during, the intentional practice of leisure.
From the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644) onward, leisure had many rules. Gentlemanly pastimes, like drinking tea, viewing paintings, and planting bamboo in the garden, were pursuits of an elegant lifestyle. Such “pure amusements” (qingwan) were not frivolous—they helped establish one’s standing in society. Aspiring men thus collected objects like chessboards, books, paintings, calligraphy, ancient bronze vessels, and ink rubbings of antiquities. With greater social mobility, and broader literacy in the late-16th to early-17th century, knowledge and culture were accessible not only to scholars and aristocrats but also to the newly affluent.
Paintings and Drawings of the European Avant-Garde: The Rubinstein Bequest
Gladys (1921–2014) and Sam Rubinstein (1917–2007) were driven by a desire “to make things better for Seattle,” as Gladys put it. Their passion for music and art led to generous support of the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Opera, and many other arts organizations in our region.
On their travels, they became interested in artists who lived and worked in Paris in the early 20th century. Exquisite examples of paintings and drawings from their collection, including works by Orphist painters Robert and Sonia Delaunay and Surrealists Joan Miró and Max Ernst, are on view in the third floor gallery dedicated to the Rubinstein’s memory. The Rubinsteins’ bequest, which also includes American and Japanese paintings not currently on view, will transform the Seattle Art Museum’s collection and inspire audiences now and in the future.
France: Inside and Out
This installation of landscapes, domestic interiors, and decorative arts from the museum’s collection showcases stylistic developments in 19th-century French painting and design. It also invites us to think about the different worlds of men and women at that time.
Beginning in the middle of the century, male artists began to paint outside, capturing intimate landscape views near Paris, scenes of laborers in the fields, and dramatic coastline vistas. The sense of immediacy that permeates those landscapes can also be found when artists turned their attention indoors. Like Vermeer before them, they were fascinated by the unremarkable moments of daily life at home.
Images of women, somewhere between formal portrait and genre scene, give a limited picture of female lives toward the end of the century. The two women artists featured in this installation represent the beginning of broader opportunities for women, but even as they developed professional careers their subject matter was limited to family scenes, still lifes, and portraits.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Covered in monumental artworks, this award-winning nine-acre sculpture park on the waterfront is Seattle's largest downtown green space and is just one mile north of the Seattle Art Museum.