COVID-19 Update: All SAM Locations Currently Closed »

Muse/News: Café con leche, Kenny G, and ancient art discovered in Sulawesi

SAM News

Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, was interviewed by Puget Sound Business Journal. She shared her vision for museums, her morning routine of café con leche and public radio, and other fun facts.

“We should think of museums as civic spaces where all kinds of people can meet, convene, have a shared experience and celebrate our shared humanities. That’s more important now than ever.”

“She speaks five languages — ‘three of them badly.’”

How’s your holiday shopping going? The Seattle Times recently shared their Holiday Gift Guide; among their recommendations for gifts for men is a SAM Shop-exclusive, a Seattle edition of the chic reusable water bottle, Phil the Bottle.

Local News

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores interviewed Kenny G. Enough said.

“The Terminal 86 Grain Facility Is Hideous. It Must Be Painted” declares Gregory Scruggs in the Stranger. He argues that the facility near the Olympic Sculpture Park is the only “loose end” in the plan for the downtown waterfront.

The Seattle Times’ Scott Greenstone on Collaboration on Canvas, a new show at CORE Gallery, an exhibition of collaborative paintings by homeless people, social workers, and volunteers.

“It was community, and a bunch of women sharing space and time, and doing something together,” Giller said. “It was different every time, but it was always a good feeling.”

Inter/National News

From Artforum’s December print edition, here are 34 artists reflecting on their favorite exhibitions and events of 2019—including Natalie Ball on Guadalupe Maravilla and Judy Chicago on John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea.

Artnet’s Katie White on Homage to the Great Latin-American Masters at Houston’s Art of the World Gallery; the exhibition explores the complexity of classifying borderless Latin American art.

An archaeological study of dozens of caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has turned up visionary examples of art—perhaps the oldest known figurative art made by modern humans.

“Scrambling up a fig tree vine, he found his way into a small grotto. Its far wall bore a panel, painted with a red ocher pigment. When Aubert saw it, he was astounded. ‘I thought, wow, it’s like a whole scene,’ he says. ‘You’ve got humans, or maybe half-human half-animals, hunting or capturing these animals … it was just amazing.’”

And Finally

The Cloud Appreciation Society.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Muse/News: Judith reigns at SAM, The Stranger gets lured, and Denise Murrell joins the Met

SAM News

Location, location: LUXE Interiors + Design offers this preview of the ‘smartly revamped” Asian Art Museum, and the downtown museum gets some love in Conde Nast Traveler.

Last week, Gina Siciliano—the author I Know What I Am: The True Story of Artemisia Gentileschi—gave a My Favorite Things tour at SAM, and Crosscut’s Brangien Davis recommended it in last week’s “Things to Do”. If you missed it, don’t despair: there’s still plenty of time to experience Gentileschi’s masterpiece, now on view in Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Paul de Barros on Seattle jazz club The Penthouse, which presented A-list performers in the ’60s. Now, archival recordings from the club will be released on November 29.

Real Change’s Lisa Edge on the mixed-media work of Jite Agbro; her work Deserving is on view at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA).

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig on Lure at MadArt, a structure-sculpture by Dream the Combine and local artist-engineer Clayton Binkley that “explore[s] the body in relationship to space, light, and environment.”

“Within the piece, I was more mindful of my steps because of the way the mesh was ever so slippery beneath my boot. I became aware of a slight unease at being so close to a skylight I’d admired from the concrete floor below.”

Inter/National News

Paul Laster writes about Do Ho Suh’s work for White Hot magazine, including past presentations at SAM and his theme of displacement. The artist’s Some/One will be a centerpiece of Be/longing at the Asian Art Museum.

Here’s Max Duron of ARTnews on the hiring of Denise Murrell as associate curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Murrell’s work will overlap the modern & contemporary and European painting departments.

Theaster Gates speaks with André Wheeler of the Guardian about his preservation of neglected Black cultural objects, including the gazebo under which 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered in Cleveland.

“From our conversation, Gates seems to envision a city-sanctioned and -funded memorial. ‘I want to believe that the city is open to it,” he said. “I believe Samaria has the right to ask the city to receive this sacred space.’”

And Finally

Shirin Neshat’s artistic inspirations.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Photo ©Tim Griffith

SAM PSA: Hands Off the Art

First things first, no rollerblading and don’t sell vape juice in the galleries.

Seriously though, we want you to have a great visit to SAM and with Remix (SAM’s late-night, creative night out that is definitely not a party) coming up on Friday, November 15 (tickets are still available, FYI), Weird Dog Productions is here to help outline how to behave at our museum.

Don’t touch the art, leave your selfie sticks at coat check, stay hydrated at the water fountains, and you’ll be an art influencer in no time. And remember, the Seattle Art Museum appreciates you!

SAM Membership Goes Green: New Digital Cards!

Yesterday, SAM rolled out an exciting new era for members! With new digital membership cards we are reducing plastic and paper waste, increasing convenience, and saving museum resources, allowing us to put more of your membership contribution towards connecting art to life. All while offering the same great benefits—now available through your smartphone wallet.

It may take several days for you to receive the email with your digital membership card. Dual members and higher, you may not receive your second card at the same time. If you do not receive your digital membership card by Monday, November 11, please contact us.

Remember, using a digital card is an option! You can continue to use your plastic membership card or we can always verify membership status at the Ticketing Desk when you present your photo ID.

What do you need to know now that SAM membership has caught up with the digital age? Check out our FAQ!

Muse/News: Mirrors in art, Kusama’s parade, and the pumpkin

SAM News

Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum continues to wow. Ashley Nelson reviews the exhibition for Seattle University’s Spectator, calling it “a treat for the art enthusiasts and novices alike.” And the Seattle Times includes it on their list “the hottest events” in November.

Here’s London-based magazine Elephant on the symbolism of mirrors in contemporary art, with Zanele Muholi’s self-portrait Bona, Charlottesville, 2015 as a jumping-off point. See it at SAM before it closes November 3.

Local News

Tantri Wija for the Seattle Times with “unusual things to do” for Halloween if you’re too cool for trick-or-treating.

Who made that portrait of Earl, though? Real Change reports on the return of Earl Lancaster’s landmark barbershop to the “powerful corner” of 23rd and Union.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reviews Robert William’s The Father of Exponential Imagination, now on view at the Bellevue Arts Museum.

“A technically skilled draftsman, Williams’s works are often psychedelic, depicting an alternate, surreal reality. Jaws unhinge so that the tongue can become a sort of beast to ride, Tarzan-like men wrestle with aliens, and hungry spirits reach toward burgers covered in demons.”

Inter/National News

There will be a Yayoi Kusama-designed balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year called Love Flies Up to the Sky. Yes.

The US Army announced this week a new reserve group of curators, conservators, and archaeologists—yes, like the Monuments Men and Women—charged with protecting cultural heritage in the Middle East.

Lee Lawrence for the Wall Street Journal on the Brooklyn Museum’s overhauled galleries of Chinese and Japanese art; other thematic presentations, including at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, are mentioned.

“As difficult as it can be to trace the stories and power plays behind objects, presenting a permanent collection involves the even more daunting task balancing what curators want to say with what they can, given the strengths and weaknesses of their museums’ holdings. One current trend is to structure displays thematically. When the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens in February 2020, for example, its installation will use works from different times and places to explore such common concerns as identity and worship.”

And Finally

It’s a Halloween tradition! Once again, here’s The Pumpkin Dance.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Natali Wiseman

Object of the Week: Study for Aleko’s Horse

Marc Chagall was a prolific artist, producing numerous pieces in a variety of media. Renowned for his richly colored, idiosyncratic style of painting that weds abstraction and Cubism, some of his lesser-known masterpieces revolved around the theater. Chagall’s relationship with the stage began in 1911, when he worked on set designs for the Ballets Russes. He continued to contribute to Russian-based stage designs throughout the ‘20s, before moving to Paris in 1923.[1] While this was an artistically productive period for Chagall, the Nazi occupation of France made living in Paris unsafe for the artist, who was Jewish. With the assistance of organizations working to extricate artists and intellectuals from Europe, Chagall and his wife immigrated to New York for the duration of World War II, arriving in the United States in 1941.  

In 1942, Chagall was hired by the Ballet Theater of New York to design the ballet costumes and sets for a new play. Based on the poem “The Gypsies,” by Alexander Pushkin, the ballet Aleko featured music by Tchaikovsky.[2] The ballet follows the story of Aleko, the protagonist who falls in love with a Romani girl named Zemfira. Their love is not everlasting, however, and by the fourth act Aleko kills Zemfira and her new lover in a fit of jealous rage. While Chagall had worked on set designs before, this was the first time he applied his skills to a ballet. He ultimately designed four backdrops—one for each act—and over 70 costumes. While the ballet’s production was to be completed in New York, union rules forbade Chagall from painting his own sets. As a result, production moved to Mexico City, an environment which greatly influenced Chagall’s designs. Heavily inspired by both Russian folklore and Mexican art and architecture, Chagall produced beautifully whimsical hand-painted ballet costumes and backdrops, including numerous design studies.

Chagall’s Study for Aleko’s Horse is one such study, merging images from both the second and fourth acts of the play. The study’s rich, vibrant colors and whimsical subject matter capture the dynamic and psychological aspects of the story. In the second act, which revolves around a lively carnival, Aleko and Zemfira are still in love. By the fourth act, Aleko dreams of strange and nightmarish fantasies, with images that twist and swirl before his eyes. Aleko’s nightmares take him to the brink of insanity—and, jealous and enraged, he kills Zemfira, in love with another man.[3] The juxtaposition of these two scenes represents the dramatic turn of events, synthesized in Chagall’s study as a densely layered, colorful dreamscape.

Hayley Makinster, SAM Curatorial Intern

[1] Stephanie Barron, “Marc Chagall and Twentieth-Century Designs for the Stage,” LACMA Unframed, 1 August 2017. https://unframed.lacma.org/2017/08/01/marc-chagall-and-twentieth-century-designs-stage
[2] Liesl Bradner, “Marc Chagall Reveals his Theatrical Side in LACMA’s ‘Fantasies for the Stage,’” LA Times, 23 July 2017. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-chagall-lacma-20170714-story.html
[3] Leland Windreich, “Massine’s ‘Aleko,’” Dance Chronicle 8, no. ¾ (1985): 156-160, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1567580
Image: Study for Aleko’s Horse, 1953-56, Marc Chagall, Oil on canvas, 18 × 24 in. (45.7 × 61 cm), Gift of Gladys and Sam Rubinstein, 2014.26.9 Estate of Marc Chagall/Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Cat Vallejo: Emerging Arts Leader Look at SAM

Very early on in my role as one of SAM’s Emerging Arts Leader Interns, our mentor, David Rue, asked us to write down three personal or professional goals we wished to achieve during our time here at SAM. To be completely honest, I was all over the place during the first few weeks, as I was struggling to find where I fit into the museum to be a successful intern. Despite feeling this way, the one thing that I was certain and hopeful for was to make SAM a place I happily call home: be a part of SAM and SAM be a part me.

As a student at the University of Washington Bothell, being my whole self and feeling at home is what truly made me happier than I ever imagined. In order to feel that same happiness at SAM, I tried to be fully present by having a positive mind and heart. I reminded myself to be my bubbly and kind self and to be comfortable with the people around me. This was way easier said than done.

On top of feeling like a lost intern, I was already struggling with adjusting to a lifestyle that was the exact opposite of what I was used to. I wanted to be a big fish in a little pond that everyone looked up to for guidance. However, being in a new, urban city where nobody really knew me meant this wasn’t the case anymore. I felt lost between the Cat that grew up in California and the adult Cat that lives in Washington. Where would I go? Who am I supposed to be? With all these new changes and heavy feelings, I thought to myself, “I don’t how I’m going to achieve my goal or if I’m even going to get there. Good luck.”

Priya Frank and Seohee Kim are the two mentors I give all my gratitude to for guiding me through my struggles. Talking to them made me realize that I was still a tiny fish in a huge pond that needed to be willing to grow and learn from others. This was a reminder to be humble and to remember that learning and growing never stops, even when you think you’re at the top. Growing only starts when you are uncomfortable, yet willing to feel and embrace that discomfort with an open mind and heart to learn something new. Their kind words of wisdom touched my heart.

After this realization, I started to feel like I could reach my goal. The big project we had the opportunity to do was the My Favorite Things Tour. For this project, I researched different art pieces, connected them to real-life experiences, centered everything around a specific theme, and proudly presented my work to the public. Wow! I will always remember our first practice of walking around and talking about the different artworks we had in mind for our tours. I knew I was on the right track in connecting the art to my personal journeys, but there was much more research and practice that needed to be completed.

After this practice I was motivated to reach out to the curators to learn more about the different art pieces, which was exactly what I did. It was so inspiring getting to hear from and learn from the curators and see how passionate they are. I also learned more on my own by reading books about the artwork and artist. Most importantly, completing all the work would not even be half of what it was without my fellow colleague and friend Lauren Farris, the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern. Working closely with her gave us the space to learn from each other’s personal and professional experiences, all while sharing this internship together. I remember practicing our tours in the galleries, just talking through them while sitting down, and always changing our art pieces and stories every time we practiced. Being by each other’s side allowed us to be vulnerable and really push through to make these tours happen.

When the day finally came, we were there for each other to see all our hard work come to life. That is just so amazing to me because there were so many people and experiences collaborating to create something great. Swimming with the big fish was not so scary after all. As I said during my tour when I was talking about Childe Hassam’s Spring on West 78th Street, “from this painting and my experience with my SAM family, I learned that home is not a place, but a feeling.” Saying these words with my whole heart, showed me that I was able to reach my one and only goal, despite being so lost in everything else. This internship was more than I hoped for and now that it has come to a close I can truly say that I was a part of SAM and SAM will always be a part of me. SAM is a place I happily call home.

Cat Vallejo, SAM 2019 Emerging Arts Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman

SAM Connects Students to Art for Free

A new school year often welcomes crisp air, spiral notebooks, and pumpkin deliciousness. This school year brings one other exciting change: Seattle Art Museum school tours will now be free for all public schools at all SAM locations! Bus subsidies are also available for Title 1 schools. Offering free tours for public schools grew out of SAM’s mission and strategic plan to champion access and equity for all. The museum firmly believes every student deserves access to high-quality arts education and creative learning. 

Even though the arts remain a required school subject by Washington State law, arts education is often one of the first programs to be cut. According to ArtsEd Washington, “In Washington State, 75% of elementary students receive only two hours, or less, of arts education each week.” Not only that, but Create Advantage Seattle notes, “Race, family income, and home language are all predictors of a students’ access to arts education in Seattle Public Schools.” 

Research reveals that consistent arts education improves high school graduation rates, empathy, motivation to stay in school, critical thinking, voter turnout, and even raises math scores. Arts Impact says, “Arts-infused learning in reading and math eliminates the achievement gap between children of color and poverty and their white upper/middle-class peers.” Also, SAM’s Kayla Skinner Deputy Director for Education and Public Engagement, Regan Pro, strongly believes in furthering arts education. “Everyone talks about how they value things like creativity and innovation. If we are saying that but aren’t supporting arts in schools, then how do we expect those muscles to grow?”

Typically, school tours at SAM start with a warm welcome from a trained docent or tour guide and a teaching artist. The docent or tour guide leads the group into SAM’s galleries where students and teachers might stare into the eyes of a giant mouse sculpture, learn the history behind Kwakwaka’wakw house posts, or discover a treasure chest lock in the Porcelain Room. With three locations and art from all over the world, tours can complement and enhance any curriculum.

After the tour, SAM’s teaching artists facilitate an art-making experience based on the works that students just saw in the galleries. Students walk away holding their own work of art, such as a three-dimensional sculpture, a two-point perspective painting, or a self-designed family crest. Plus, teaching artists provide students with an opportunity to view potential career paths in the arts.

“Being in the art museum was a new experience for many of my students. They were intrigued and, to my surprise, were able to connect with some artists. I feared they would find the museum too “high-brow,” but the variety of art allowed most to connect in some way.”

– Educator

In addition to free school tours, SAM has continued to develop school partnerships. One of those partnerships, called “Drawing from Nature,” is now in its fourth year. Through this partnership, SAM offers all second graders in Highline School District a chance to explore the Olympic Sculpture Park. Building off these field trips, SAM provides lesson plans and professional development sessions to teachers. Furthermore, SAM is partnering with Seattle Public Schools on a new program at the Seattle Asian Art Museum when it reopens in early 2020. This partnership supports third through fifth-grade teachers as they build connections between art and social studies.

“This was an amazing experience and many of the themes were continued to talk about and apply in other subject areas.”

– Educator

SAM’s Senior Manager of School & Educator Programs, Anna Allegro, says school partnerships provide students with a sense of ownership of SAM. “We’ll work with a school for five years, the kids will come every year, and they just have this sense of ownership and comfort. It’s so different from when they first walked in where SAM might have felt like an intimidating kind of space. Our goal is that students know they can be seen and heard here.”

With SAM’s partnerships and free school tours, the museum is honored to support arts education and creative learning for all young people whilst continuing the goal to promote equity and access for all. As much as art museums play a role in advancing arts education, this mission extends beyond our four walls to everyone in the community.

“Everyone can be an advocate for arts education. If you’re a parent, talk to your principal. Talk to your PSA. Ask them how they are supporting the arts. How is that a part of their classroom? If you’re a grandparent or if you live in a neighborhood, understand what the public school is in your neighborhood and how you can help support it.”

– Regan Pro

Learn more and book a free school tour at SAM before they fill up!

– Lauren Farris, SAM’s 2019 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Robert Wade

Gardner Center goes down the Silk Roads of History

What is it about Silk Roads history and art that interests so many people? In the late 19th century, German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term ‘Silk Road’ or ‘Silk Routes’ as part of his map-making efforts. After all, better maps of travel routes had commercial value for access to coal or building railroads, for instance. In the early 20th century, several spectacular “discoveries” (ie, new to the West) of magnificent troves of art and manuscripts in Central Asia and western China fueled the fascination.

Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy, photo: Wu Jian. 

Now the plural ‘Silk Roads’ is used to better describe the many complex historic trade routes through the Eurasian continent. The idea of commercial exchange across a continent that involved interactions of many cultures, languages, religions, and arts can be such an appealing picture of cosmopolitan societies—in contrast to present-day tensions at home and abroad. “Silk Road nostalgia” refers to interpreting this history in the imagination as a time of tolerance and international understanding as well as prosperity, rooted in hope for peaceful and respectful global exchange in future.

The Jewel of Muscat, a reconstructed replica of a ninth century Omani trading ship, sails into the harbour of Galle, 116 km (72 miles) south of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, on April 19, 2010. The ship, built in a traditional design without nails and sewn together with coconut fibers, left Oman on February 15 to re-enact the old trade routes used by Arab traders, with its final port of call in Singapore, according to the organizers of the voyage. AFP PHOTO/ Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI. (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

The fall Saturday University Lecture Series, Silk Roads Past and Present: From Ancient Afghan Treasure to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, presents current understandings in seven lectures. Beginning with a talk on the Begram Hoard excavated in Afghanistan, we consider how these storerooms from the first century CE could contain Roman glass, Chinese lacquer, and extraordinarily carved ivories from India. A talk on Maritime Silk Roads explores the shipping that actually transported more goods than overland routes, despite the persistent image of camel caravans.

Bodhisattva leading a lady to the Pure Land (detail), Chinese, Tang dynasty, c. 851–900 CE, Hanging scroll, Ink and colors on silk, Height: 80.5 centimetres, Width: 53.8 centimetres, ©️Trustees of the British Museum. 

The Silk Roads also saw the spread of Buddhism, and two speakers explore Buddhist art in China. Two lesser-known religions are introduced in a talk on Zoroastrian and Manichaean arts. And what about silk? Find out about silk and fashion in Tang Dynasty China, as trade made new textile technologies, colors, and patterns available.  The series concludes with a talk on China’s current international initiative also referred to as the New Silk Road. Please join us!

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Image: Mogao Cave 237. Image courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy, photo: Zhang Weiwen.