In a collection of nearly 25,000 objects, it’s easy to overlook a hidden gem. While reading an art blog , I came across a link to a photographic portrait of George Washington, carved in snow (I’m not joking). Amazing, but something you might not look twice at in a gallery, or even in a database. Sometimes it takes a spotlight to recognize the brilliance, humor, history, subtlety, or whimsy in this collection. I asked some of my colleagues to share their favorite overlooked, underappreciated object—these are the objects that they wish you, the visitor, knew all about.
Black History Month
This month’s Book(s) of the Month Club entry highlights some of the more recent library acquisitions related to African American art production and African Americans as the subject in art. February is Black History Month and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to highlight some our great resources in these areas.
PHEW! It’s incredibly hard to keep good news under wraps, especially when it’s as big as Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. And now, thank goodness, the word is out.
As the Environmental Coordinator who has stepped into place here at SAM after our Environmental Steward recently, Jackie White moved on, I am pleased to report that SAM has reduced its carbon emissions by 30% between 2008 and 2009. This is an amazing achievement! I’d have to say the credit goes not only to the SAM Goes Green Program but all of the staff at the museum as well as the volunteers, members, and visitors.
Recently I blogged about the scant history of the museum’s magnificent painting by Frederic Church, entitled A Country Home, which was a gift to the museum in 1965 from one Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael. For five years I’ve been wanting to learn more about Mrs. Carmichael and how she came to Seattle and how she came to bring with her her great grandfather’s impressive picture by Church. I’ve been surprisingly lucky in research so many times that I’m now convinced that some strange forces guide our hands as we delve into the past—forces that make sure that lives are never forgotten. The forces directed me to Mrs. Carmichael just last week.
When I was first asked to write something for this blog, I immediately thought about our incredible library collections and my desire to highlight at least some of the interesting resources we have.
The “book of the month” idea also came to mind. Dependent upon your age and where you grew up, you might have been a subscriber to the Book of the Month Club ©, a book-by-mail service begun in 1926. My mother, an elementary school teacher, signed me up for the Children’s Book of the Month Club ™ as soon as I could read. I’d like to take a page from the BOMC’s playbook and feature a book or books from our library collections each month on this blog. We don’t have mail-order services, but our libraries are all open to the public for reference use. Our hours and other information are available here.
A couple of weeks ago I gave a tour in the “Michelangelo Wednesdays” series. (Quick overview: SAM curators—including myself, the curatorial lead for Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art—give a short tour of the Michelangelo exhibition every Wednesday afternoon.) I am not a Renaissance scholar, though I do have a soft spot for Florentine art. Would I fake my way through the show, using the knowledge and vocabulary gleaned from the amazing Professor Evelyn Lincoln in my Renaissance art classes in college? Would I simply do an overview of the show, basically taken straight from the catalogue and Chiyo Ishikawa’s overviews? Maybe I would just take people around and point them toward my favorite stops in Gary Radke’s charismatic audio tour? What, oh what, was I going to do?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to put a work of art on view. To our visitors, it should seem oh-so-easy: You see painting A (something you love) one day, and on your next visit it’s replaced with painting B (something you love even more). But behind the scenes, it’s anything but. As you relax and take in the holidays, here’s a little piece of our frenetic world to consider. (And as a little holiday bonus from me to you, all images are from 1983—enjoy!)
I have a meeting today at the Seattle Asian Art Museum to discuss the Getty Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative. While I am there I plan to check out the New Old and the New New. A pair of installations featuring new acquisitions, it opened last Sunday, Dec. 12.
The New Old: Recent Acquisitions of Chinese Painting features 15 works of art produced between 1629-2009, many of which were recently donated to the museum in honor of director emerita Mimi Gates. This installation also features key works by 17th century painter Bada Shanren (1626–1705) as explained in this video excerpt from last week’s members art history lecture by SAM’s Chinese Art Curator, Josh Yiu.
The focus of New New: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Asian Art is to introduce visitors to the work of 17 artists that have come into the SAM collection since 2002. They represent China, Japan, Korea, Canada and the United States.
New Media Manager