Below you will find information for exhibits at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Click here for the most up to date exhibition information.
Boundless: Stories of Asian Art
Feb. 8, 2020 - TBA
Asia can be defined in many ways, geographically, culturally, and historically. As the world’s largest and most populated continent, Asia is not uniform or fixed: its boundaries shift, its people and cultures are diverse, and its histories are complex. After a transformative renovation, the Seattle Asian Art Museum—one of only a few Asian art museums in the United States—reopens with a presentation that embraces this complexity. You will not find galleries labeled by geography. Instead, works from different cultures and from ancient to contemporary times come together to tell stories about Asia in a non-linear narrative. Read more here.
Apr. 22, 2018- Feb. 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. Read more here.
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas: Carpe Fin
Nov. 1, 2019 – Nov. 1, 2020
Carpe Fin is a major commission for SAM’s collection by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. This monumental work has been created as a “Haida manga,” a unique approach developed by Yahgulanaas that blends several artistic and cultural traditions, including Haida form line art, Japanese manga, Pop Art, and graphic novels. Read more here.
Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920-2020
Dec. 14, 2019 – Nov. 8, 2020
Initiated in 1920s by the Japanese collector and connoisseur Yanagi Soetsu (1889–1961), the Mingei movement elevated functional, everyday crafts to art objects. While folk arts were important sources in the foundation of the movement, Mingei’s impact goes beyond Japanese folk crafts and even beyond the artists closely associated with the movement in the mid-twentieth century. Ranging from mid-century decorative arts to contemporary designs, the ceramics, textiles, sculptures, and prints in this exhibition are seen as exceptional art works in the broad applications of Mingei. Read more here.
Claire Partington: Taking Tea
Dec. 7, 2018 - Dec. 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. Read more here.
Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence
Jul. 11, 2020 - Feb. 15, 2021
Seattle-based artist Barbara Earl Thomas draws from history, literature, folklore, and biblical stories to address what she calls the plagues of our day, from pervasive violence against black men and youth, to gun violence, to the climate crisis. Defining herself as a storyteller, the artist notes, "It is the chaos of living and the grief of our time that compels me, philosophically, emotionally, and artistically. I am a witness and a chronicler: I create stories from the apocalypse we live in now and narrate how life goes on in midst of the chaos." Read more here.
Walkabout: The Art of Dorothy Napangardi
May 5, 2018 - Mar. 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. Read more here.
BE/LONGING: Contemporary Asian Art
Feb. 8, 2020 - Ongoing
Vast, vibrant, and rapidly changing, Asia is a fertile ground for contemporary artists. The 12 artists in Be/longing were born in different parts of Asia: Azerbaijan, Iran, India, Thailand, China, Korea, and Japan. They have all spent time or moved outside of Asia. Their experiences as both insiders and outsiders have compelled them to explore their Asian heritage from multiple perspectives. Their works, as a result, are at once Asian and global. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
A Cultural Legacy: A Series of Paintings from the Allen Family Collection
Paul G. Allen, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, had a lifelong interest in the visual arts and believed that art should be accessible and shared widely to deepen our connections to art and to help us see the world with a fresh perspective. A Cultural Legacy showcases singular paintings of importance that connect to works in SAM’s collections and special exhibitions. The first in a series of three historically important works from the Allen Family Collection will be Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) by Lucian Freud, followed by The Madonna of the Magnificat by Sandro Botticelli, and White Rose with Larkspur No. 1 by Georgia O’Keeffe. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
Suggested narratives—some personal, others historical, some biblical—permeate the works in this exhibition. Implicit in many pieces are histories of Black lives and experiences in America. Instead of telling overt tales, the artists rely on our powers of association to communicate narrative possibilities. Read more here.
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. Read more here. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
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. Read more here.
Jaume Plensa is renowned for his monumental and psychologically engaging public art.
His sculpture Echo is named for the mountain nymph of Greek mythology who offended the goddess Hera—she kept her engaged in conversation and prevented her from spying on one of Zeus’ amours. To punish Echo, Hera deprived the nymph of speech, except for the ability to repeat the last words spoken by another. Read more here.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Covered in monumental artworks, this award-winning nine-acre sculpture park on the waterfront in Seattle's largest downtown green space and is just one mile north of the Seattle Art Museum. Read more here.
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