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What it takes

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!)

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New Old & New New

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.

Christina DePaolo
New Media Manager

Why a plate?

Michelangelo Public and Private invites us into the artistic process behind some of the most astonishing works of art ever created – the Sistine Chapel frescoes. Through preparatory drawings – quick figure sketches to capture a pose, analytical studies of outstretched limbs, a highly finished portrait that will be incorporated into a populous narrative – we watch Michelangelo making decisions that lead to the finished work.

It is easy to understand why these preparatory drawings – the artist’s first ideas – are at the centerpiece of the Michelangelo exhibition. But what about some of the other objects? Read More

You, me, coffee, tea

Artist John Marshall on his creative process, screen shot from the SAM video

Artist John Marshall, screen shot from the SAM video

Recently, Decorative Arts curator Julie Emerson was able to commission a coffee and tea service from silversmith John Marshall for our collection. It’s a very cool process (both commissioning and making), something the Dec Arts department had never been able to do before—that collection had always focused on historic American and European material.

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The History in Art History: How did this painting get to Seattle?

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

For me, a work of art lives on in part by its association with people, places, and times past and present.  When we see objects in museums, in isolation, how do we understand them as expressions of a maker’s personal vision and circumstances and of viewers’ expectations in the artist’s own time and over the course of generations?  Each object of historical American art that I work with has endured because someone—a collector, a critic, an artist’s descendant, maybe—has been its champion, often when few others were.  Historical American art has for so much of our past been overshadowed by the taste in this country for European art, which signaled for so many the ideal of artistic achievement and good taste. 

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