All posts in “SAM in Seattle”

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. 
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Donor Spotlight: Anne and Joe Baldwin

We are honored to support the transformation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. As children, we both grew up visiting SAAM and were awed by the massive art deco building and exposure to rich culture within the museum. While raising our children, we visited the museum on school field trips and family outings, so it wasn’t surprising when our son, Michael, chose to take his senior pictures in front of SAAM. When we learned that the historical building was in desperate need of improved infrastructure and climate control as well as expanded exhibition and learning spaces, and we wanted to be involved. SAAM is a Seattle gem with its unique location within Volunteer Park and long, relevant history. This treasured landmark will offer locals and visitors an opportunity learn about the diverse art, culture, values and traditions of Asia for years to come.

–Anne and Joe Baldwin, SAM Donors

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Muse/News: Layerless freedom, #JayDoodles, and Art Boys

SAM News

In honor of Pacific Northwest Black Pride, Crystal Paul, Erika Schultz, and Corinne Chin of The Seattle Times presents a multimedia story exploring identity and freedom with 10 Black, queer Seattleites.

In a related story, they recreated an intimate conversation that Black, queer artists recently had with Zanele Muholi, talking through their reactions to the SAM show, Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness.

Here’s Gregory Scruggs for the Stranger, interviewing Brazilian artist Regina Silveira about her Olympic Sculpture Park site-specific installation Octopus Wrap, the goal of art, and the relative concrete jungles of Seattle and São Paulo.

Seattle Met’s September issue has hit newsstands. Their fall arts preview leads with a story on the new directors at SAM, the Symphony, and the Opera—and their visions for the future. SAM’s new director Amada Cruz starts in mid-September!

“The tradition of art museums is that they’re closed off repositories of precious works of art,” [Cruz] says. “How do we open ourselves up so that museums can become part of everybody’s daily life?”

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured some terrific shots (as usual) of an installation happening at the Burke Museum: a huge mural by artist RYAN! Feddersen.

Watch this Crosscut video featuring cool footage of the viaduct “unmaking” and a conversation with architect David Miller about the future of the waterfront.

#JayDoodles: It’s a thing. SAM’s own Chiyo Ishikawa is among the art-world heavies offering their takes on Governor Jay Inslee’s lighthearted artistic practice in this Seattle Times story.

“The figure in the boat could represent his campaign: Rowing against the stream!”

Inter/National News

The MCA Denver has named Nora Burnett Abrams its new director, reports the New York Times. She’s been a curator at the museum for the last 10 years.

Alex Needham, an arts editor at the Guardian, tweeted this week that curators shouldn’t be named in show reviews. Artnet’s Naomi Rea reports on the ensuing Twitter storm.

Artnet’s Caroline Goldstein reports on the ABC casting notice that may bring so-called Art Boys to network television.

“The dashing Art Boy, on the other hand, is more of a rosé and tapas type. Who doesn’t want to watch a show about him?”

And Finally

Happy birthday, Dorothy Parker.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view “Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness,” Seattle Art Museum, 2019.



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A Grand Return: Preparing to Reopen the Seattle Asian Art Museum

With construction nearing completion at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM staff has started preparations for the months-long move back into the historic building. As most people who have changed residences know, moving back in can often be as challenging as moving out. That experience will be amplified on a massive scale as the staff begins the gargantuan task of readying the renovated museum for art and visitors.

The 10,000 collection objects that were carefully packed, tracked, and removed from the Asian Art Museum now need to return to the building—a process expected to require a full year, although the museum will reopen before that process is complete. Lauren Mellon, Director of Museum Services and Chief Registrar, explains “Moving back in will be more complicated because we’re building the storage spaces as the art returns.” However, the collection will be returning to many important improvements. Mellon continues, “We will now have full climate control, and the storage facilities will be vastly upgraded. Overall, the objects will be much happier in their new home.”

Before works of art and museum staff can enter the renovated building, a number of systems across the facility will need to be tested to ensure they are operating correctly, including those pertaining to security, mechanics, air quality, and climate control. “We must maintain what we call a ‘critical environment’ to support the art, as well as provide a safe and healthy environment for employees and museum visitors,” explains Lee Richardson, Director of Facilities.

Once testing is complete, the first works of art that will be brought inside are those to be presented in the museum’s galleries. The preparation crew will begin working gallery by gallery, building platforms, preparing the cases for object displays, and eventually mounting the works of art. One of the most exciting outcomes of this work is visitors will have the chance to experience more of the museum’s collection. “We will no longer have to de-install the permanent collection as the special exhibitions change. All thirteen of the museum’s original galleries will now be dedicated to showing the collection,” says Nathan Peek, Director of Design and Installation. 

The building’s many improvements are inspiring the work of museum staff across departments. As Richardson says, “While the renovation process was important to addressing safety issues, we also now have a better palette to work with for exhibiting art and engaging the public.”

– Erin Langner, freelance writer

Photo: Natali Wiseman
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Picnic at Olympic Sculpture Park with Landscapes Café

Despite Seattle’s typically June-uary weather, SAM is ready for summer and you know what that means—empanadas! Landscapes Café in our PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park has extended their hours and their menu to make sure that visitors to SAM’s waterfront sculpture park have all the snacks and beverages they could possibly need.

Now open Friday through Monday from 10 am to 2 pm, Landscapes offers a rotating selection of roasters and their seasonal drink, The Vermonter (latte with maple syrup, brown sugar, and cinnamon). For all you non-coffee drinkers, Smith artisan teas, Spindrift sodas, kombucha, and juice boxes are available so everyone can stay well hydrated.

Sweet & savory pastries from Comadre Panaderia & Macrina Bakery and grab-and-go sandwiches and salads from Molly’s make it so that all you have to bring for the picture perfect picnic is the blanket.

Landscapes Café originated as a teardrop trailer mobile coffee shop owned by barista Rickie Hecht and is part of SAM’s continuing partnership with Seattle nonprofit Ventures, which helps bring emerging entrepreneurs to the sculpture park’s PACCAR Pavilion. Stop by next time you take a walk in the park!

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Site-Specific Art at the Park: Regina Silveira’s “Octopus Wrap”

If you’ve strolled through the Olympic Sculpture Park since May you’re probably wondering about the tire tracks covering the PACCAR Pavilion. As if monster trucks went rogue or a motorcycle gang veered off Western Avenue to burn some surreal rubber, the building is wrapped in a pattern of skid marks. Look closely and you’ll spot five toy motorcycles on the interior mural wall, the origin of this mind-bending temporary intervention—by one of Latin America’s most influential contemporary artists—that alters our perceptions of our physical environment. 

Commissioned by SAM, Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap is the latest architectural installation the artist has realized around the world. Hailing from Brazil and examining the ways superimposed images change the meaning of an existing space, Silveira took inspiration from the Olympic Sculpture Park’s location at the intersection of several busy thoroughfares. Next time you visit the park, tune in to the sounds of traffic, trains under the greenway, and the churning sea, as you take in Octopus Wrap, on view through March 8, 2020

Silveira’s interventions on the exteriors and interiors of buildings, on city streets and in public parks, have included dense clusters of footprints, swarms of insects, nocturnal light projections of animal tracks that wander across building façades, and exaggerated shadows. 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.

For Regina Silveira, a political element of these ruptures resides in their assault on our perception or, in her words, “in the level of transformation that can be brought about by grafting something into a given space in a way that magically changes its relationship to the real.” Her aim is estrangement from the familiar, and her preferred tactic is surprise. Beyond a heightened sensory experience within a newly defined space, Silveira’s mode of intervention can also be understood in social and political terms.

With Octopus Wrap, the pavilion’s calm, white walls are noisily invaded by five motorcyclists who use the windows, walls, and floor as their racetrack. 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.

We extend a special thank you to our generous SAM Fund donors who helped make this installation possible.

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Docents Defined: Nina Vichayapai

Are you a fan of the Seattle Asian Art Museum who loves discussing your favorite artworks? Consider volunteering as a docent at the Asian Art Museum when it reopens later this year! SAM is recruiting new docents to start training to lead tours of the newly installed galleries and you have until May 31 to apply.

Docents bring their unique interests and backgrounds to each tour they lead and that’s what makes them fun and engaging for SAM’s diverse audiences. A docent like Nina didn’t go to museum growing up but later found them to be an important part of her life and started leading tours with SAM to help others become invested in museum visits early in life. Find about more about Nina in the interview below!

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

Nina: I am an artist and studied at an art school in San Francisco. Since I was young, I loved making art and knew I wanted to become an artist. It wasn’t until I was older that I also learned to love looking at art. A huge part of my college education took place at museums and included wonderful opportunities to meet the people who help these spaces function. Growing up I never really visited museums and by the time I became an adult, I somehow fell into the impression that the museum was a space reserved for people unlike me and the stories being told there did not represent mine.

After seeing many different museums, I was blown away by how much these spaces offer our communities. By the time I finished college and decided to move back to Seattle I knew that as much as I wanted to continue making art, I also wanted to find opportunities which would allow me to tap into the joy I have for museums. Becoming a docent with the Seattle Art Museum was really the perfect outlet for that joy. I was especially compelled to become a docent given my previous background of apprehension toward museums. There are many people who avoid museums out of feeling excluded. Having once been one of those people, I have a lot of patience and understanding when it comes to sharing what I think we can all learn from art.

What’s the best part of being a docent?

The best part of being a docent for me is definitely getting to see all the incredible connections people make to their own lives all just from looking at art. I’ve worked primarily with younger students and whether we are looking at a piece from the Pacific Northwest or from somewhere far away, whether it was made last year or hundreds of years ago, I’m always so thrilled to see how quickly the students will begin to relate the work to their own lived experiences.

Another thing I must mention as being a huge highlight is the wealth of resources we have access to! Through the online database, which docents can access, and the library at SAM, there is so much to learn about the art in SAM’s collections. Docents are always contributing to this wealth as well. For any art lover, it’ s really a dream and very fun to get lost in exploring the archives.

What’s your favorite work of art to tour?

My favorite installation to tour is Lessons from the Institute of Empathy. This installation includes the work of Saya Woofalk along with pieces from many other artists, so there is a lot to work within the gallery for the many different tours we do. But what I love most is seeing how students light up when they step into that space. The whole installation really breaks a lot of preconceived ideas about what art and museums are supposed to look like. And the concept of empathy is always one that generates really deep and often touching conversations.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

I gave an Elements of Art tour to a particularly enthusiastic class once. They walked in without much prior experience of talking about art, but by the end of our tour they couldn’t contain their excitement at discovering the different elements we had just discussed in every artwork we passed. It was as if I had revealed a magician’s trick to them and their glee was really contagious!

What advice do you have for people applying for the docent program?

Visit museums! Not just art museums too. Seattle has so many great museums. I think it’s important to get a feel for the culture and approach to education unique to each museum. It helped me understand what qualities I felt were important and how I could bring that to my role as a docent.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

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Muse/News: Summer fun, earthy art, and a wish

SAM News

Heads-up, parents and caregivers: summer in Seattle is upon us! Here’s Elisa Murray for the Seattle Times with great ideas to keep the learning going and keep the fun going while school’s out. She includes Summer at SAM, our annual series of free programming at the Olympic Sculpture Park, held this year July 11 through August 22.

And Artdaily and Patch.com both shared the news about Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap, the mind-bendingly cool site-specific installation at the Olympic Sculpture Park’s PACCAR Pavilion.

Local News

At this week’s event featuring Tayari Jones (she was AMAZING), Seattle Arts and Lectures announced their exciting 2019-20 lineup, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Min Jin Lee, and Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey.

Musical hooks and a “subtle new take on its sexual politics”: Seattle Magazine’s Gavin Borchert on “Why You Need to See Seattle Opera’s Carmen.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis examines the dire news about climate change and looks at how art could be a vital way to confront the challenges ahead.

“It might seem too-little-too-late to argue for sublime beauty in the face of urgent statistics about habitat loss, mass extinctions, droughts, wildfires and coastal erosion. But the introspective state that art is so adept at conjuring might be the only angle from which our modern brains can process and address the monumental facts.”

Inter/National News

Farewell to I.M. Pei, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect who passed away at the age of 102. He designed the glass pyramid entrance of the Louvre in Paris and the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

The team at Artnet has a gondola-full of reads on the Venice Biennale, including the recent news that Lithuania’s beach-opera installation and Arthur Jafa’s film “The White Album” took the event’s top prizes.

Renée Reizman for Hyperallergic on Dandelions, an installation by the anonymous Los Angeles art collective Art Department that turned a decommissioned substation into “a secret wish-processing facility.”

“The bureaucrat asked more general questions. Could the wish be categorized as altruistic or selfish? Did it pertain to romance or your career?”

And Finally

“We sat them up on chairs, they were smiling for the camera. It was the greatest day of my life.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Manager of Public Relations

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Docents Defined: David Turner

Do you love art and can’t wait to spend loads of time in the Seattle Asian Art Museum when it reopens? We’ve got the volunteer position for you! SAM is recruiting new docents to start training to lead tours of the newly installed galleries and you have until May 31 to apply.

Our docents have a wide range of interests and background. Take David, for instance—he started volunteering to lead tours to get more involved in the arts community and his favorite artwork in the museum changes with every tour! Want to learn more about being a docent? Join SAM staff and current docents at our Docent Open House on May 16, 2019 from 6–7 pm

SAM: Tell us about yourself. Why did you decide to become a docent?

David: It was a way for me to get to be connected with the community when I came to Seattle.

What’s the best part about being leading school tours?

The exposure to the art and interacting with kids. One visit to a museum is never enough to get to understand or enjoy something. My joy in being in the museum comes from close contact with art over a period of time. It’s more meaningful when I can try to engage a group of kids or even adults in responding to an artwork. It’s a challenge, but it’s really a pleasure.

What’s your favorite work of art at SAM?

That changes every tour. I tell every group I take into the galleries, “I’m going to take you to see my favorite piece.” I want to express to kids, and everyone else on my tours, that I have regard for the work. Yesterday, my favorite piece was Market Scene by Paul Bril.

What’s your most memorable touring experience?

The emotional response to Marie Watt’s Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Four Pelts, Sky Woman, Cousin Rose, and All My Relations in the Northwest Coast galleries. My take on it has always been that every blanket has a story and Blanket Stories encapsulates the stories of the people who created the materials in the piece. I ask viewers if they have a blanket story and it’s always very moving. It’s a very meaningful moment when they see it’s not just about a blanket, but that this is a collection of human beings’ lives.

What advice do you have for people interested in the docent program?

Be yourself. That’s it! A mistake that’s easy to make is to think that there’s a canned presentation that you’re going to give. Those are not the most interesting tours by any means. When docents have internalized a piece, it makes a big difference in the way the audience that you’re speaking to reacts.

– Yaoyao Liu, Seattle Asian Art Museum Educator

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