Muse/News: Majesty at SAM, beyond Bollywood at MOHAI, and stories of Asia

SAM News

“Magisterial and filled with drama”: The Wall Street Journal’s Judith Dobrzynski explores Jusepe de Ribera’s Saint Jerome in the paper’s “Masterpiece” column; you can see the incredible painting at SAM in Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum, on view through January 26.

“The wrinkles on his face, his palms and his right heel are visible, as are the toenails on his forward foot. His setting may be remote, but this Jerome is a real human being.”

The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley has “5 Seattle-area arts events to look forward to in 2020” and leads with the Asian Art Museum reopening.

In case you missed it: The Seattle Times’ December 21 print edition featured photojournalist Alan Berner’s behind-the-scenes look at the Do Ho Suh installation in progress with Liz Brown

David Carrier for Hyperallergic on the “endlessly inventive” Jörg Immendorff, whose solo show is now on view in Madrid; his Café Deutschland 38. Parteitag, just added to SAM’s collection in honor of Kim Rorschach, is now on view. 

Local News

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the new art installations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that will be giving the airport a first-class upgrade.

It’s Hot Toddy time, declares the Stranger’s Rich Smith.

Sharmila Mukherjee for the Seattle Times reviews Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, on view at MOHAI through January 26.

“The most compelling aspect of the show is its focus on faces. Radiant faces loom out from images on the walls. At a time when immigrants are being described as dangerous, faceless people, these faces ask visitors to pause and look.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone rounds up all the artworks now entering the public domain.

Hannah Brown for Vox on the year in protests—and the art that inspired and was inspired by them.

The New York Times’ Will Heinrich reviews the Brooklyn Museum’s reinstallation of its Chinese and Japanese collections, calling it “5,000 Years of Asian Art in 1 Single, Thrilling Conversation.”

“Redesigning an American museum’s Asian wing is no mean feat. How to convey the very real throughlines that make terms as broad as ‘Chinese art’ and ‘Japanese art’ meaningful, while also doing justice to the staggering variety of these ancient, and hugely populous, cultures?”

And Finally

Elena Ferrante, Beyoncé, and emoji: The Atlantic’s Culture desk takes on the pop culture of the 2010s.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Saint Jerome, 1626, Jusepe de Ribera, Spanish, 1591–1652, oil on canvas, 105 1/8 × 64 9/16 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte
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Object of the Week: Rosary Bead

This 16th-century Flemish rosary bead or “prayer nut,” not even two inches in diameter, is a virtuosic display of wood and ivory carving. Floral patterns encircled by delicate ivory bands adorn each hemisphere. These swirling petals draw the beholder in for a closer look, which turns out to be worthwhile: the bead’s subtle hinge and clasp lead to hidden depths.

Opening the prayer nut reveals two impossibly small and detailed scenes from the life of Christ. The smaller side shows Saint Christopher bearing the young Jesus safely across the river, while the larger side bears an intimate scene of the Virgin and Child with Mary’s parents, Saint Anne and Saint Joaquim.

The sight of the intricate carvings alone is breathtaking, but these objects were wonderfully interactive as well. At the height of their popularity, most prayer nuts were worn on rosaries. These strings of beads were central to a multisensory experience of worship, where different beads loosely corresponded with recitations of ‘Aves’ and ‘Pater Nosters’, among other prayers. We can imagine the feeling of the prayer beads in hand, the sound of them clacking together in time with the holy words, combining into a trance-like meditation, in which the worshipper was meant to visualize and contemplate scenes from the Bible.[1] Those men and women lucky enough to have a beautiful prayer nut at the end of their rosary would open it carefully at the culmination of their prayers and be rewarded by an actual vision of these scenes.

However, we can’t only call these people lucky—they were also wealthy. Prayer nuts were symbols of status as much as faith, and church Reformers specifically criticized prayer nuts as empty claims to piety by the superrich.[2] This beautiful example in SAM’s collection would likely have been particularly precious, as it is made of sandalwood (an unusual choice) and ivory, both import goods from faraway continents.

I am continually in awe of the way objects like these, with a bit of context and empathy, can connect us to people we have not remembered in written archives. They never mean only one thing, and their stories will keep unfolding as long we care to look under the surface.

Linnea Hodge, Curatorial Division Coordinator


[1] Reindert Falkenburg, “Prayer Nuts: Feasting the Eyes of the Heart,” in Prayer Nuts, Private Devotion, and Early Modern Art Collecting, ed. Evelin Wetter and Frits Scholten (Abegg-Stiftung, 2017), 15-17.
[2] Falkenburg, “Prayer Nuts”, 13
Images: Rosary Bead, Miniature Religious Scenes, early 16th century, Flemish, sandalwood, pear wood, and ivory, 1 9/16 x 1 7/16 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 67.4, photo: Craig Boyko Art Gallery of Ontario, 2016

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Macha Theater Works Visits Flesh and Blood

This dramatization of Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting Judith and Holofernes certainly brings out the blood in Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum, currently on view at SAM.

One of the few successful female painters of her time, Gentileschi’s famous painting is hanging at SAM in Flesh and Blood, an exhibition of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Judith and Holofernes provides one of the characters from the play, Blood Water Paint, recently restaged at Seattle’s 12th Ave Arts Studio by Macha Theatre Works. Playwright Joy McCullough‘s YA novel adaptation of Blood Water Paint won the 2019 Washington State Book Award and we couldn’t pass up the chance to bring these actors into the galleries to recreate a scene for you!

See this important artwork at SAM during Flesh and Blood, on view January 26. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to experience the fierce beauty of art from the 16th and 17th centuries. Renowned Renaissance artists such as Titian and Raphael join Baroque masters including Artemisia Gentileschi, Jusepe de Ribera, Guido Reni, and Bernardo Cavallino to reveal the aspirations and limitations of the human body and the many ways it can express love and devotion, physical labor, and tragic suffering.

Blood Water Paint

Based on true events, Blood Water Paint unfolds lyrically through interactions with the women featured in Artemisia’s most famous paintings and culminates in her fierce battle to rise above the most devastating event in her life and fight for justice despite horrific consequences.

Macha Theatre Works

Macha Theatre Works is a fearless female non-profit arts organization showcasing exceptional artists, delivering innovative education programs, and staging new theatrical works that feature strong female characters.

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Sea Change at SAM Gallery

Learn a little about one of the newest artists to join the SAM Gallery roster. Anne Marie Nequette‘s work will be on view in SAM Gallery from January –February 1 in the show New Art, New Artists 2020!

Nequette approaches her work from a background in sculpture, installation, and architecture. Her current body of work, Sea Change, focuses on the rapidly increasing displacement of people in coastal cities worldwide that are considered at high risk. She thinks about all of the people who live at the sea’s edge, and how water levels are now expected to rise, and where will those millions of people go? and how? She has long been concerned about “where we humans are headed regarding climate change, from forest fires to coastal flooding, from collapse of agricultural lands and practices to collapse of necessary species, oceans, and safe drinking water, etc. The power of water is something that many people underestimate, and only those who have survived a flood or hurricane have some idea of what that might be like.”

The idea and the initial list of cities for Sea Change came from an article in The Guardian in 2017.[1] It included interactive maps of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, The Hague, and Alexandria that showed the grave danger these cities face, given their high population numbers (Shanghai at 34.8 million in 2015) and/or precious agricultural land (Alexandria and the Nile Delta). She works abstractly, primarily in paint and collage. If she has been to the city depicted, she relies on her experience to create a color and texture palette from paper on which she draws and paints. If she has not been to the city, she reads about the city and travels via Google image, and Google satellite maps looking at the city from above as well as from the street, to get a feel for what it is like. As she works, she imagines a city that has become inundated, though not completely underwater.  Each of these works is titled with the population figures from governmental sources for the metropolitan areas and the works are named for the people, their cities, and the year the population number was last updated, i.e., ‘Shanghai, China, 39.4 million in 2015’.

– Pamela Jaynes SAM Gallery Coordinator 

[1] The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming, (Friday, November 3, 2017) Josh Holder, Niko Kommenda and Jonathan Watts (updated May 28, 2018). 
Bangkok, Thailand, 14.6 million in 2010, Anne Marie Nequette, Collage on canvas. Keihanshin (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), Japan, 19.3 million in 2010, Anne Marie Nequette, Collage on canvas.
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Muse/News: The art of Mingei, Kusama lost and found, and background

SAM News

The Crosscut team features chill events that will help you escape the hubbub of the holidays, including a silent disco party, a bonsai solstice, and a new SAM installation of elevated craftworks, Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020.

The Seattle Review of Books is asking local luminaries, “if you could give everyone in Seattle one book as a gift this holiday season, what book would you choose and why?” Here are selections from Amada Cruz, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO.

Local News

After 40 years, the Pike Place newsstand is closing. Your final chance to buy a magazine, a pack of gum, or a tote is December 31.

Moira Macdonald and Bethany Jean Clement of the Seattle Times take their “Dinner at a Movie” series to the ballet. Mentioned: mouse cookies, orange-flame tutus, and all the adorable children in bows.

Go see Paul Rucker’s Forever at Greg Kucera before it closes on Saturday. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig wrote about this “compelling” show of 15 “commemorative stamps” that feature the faces of Civil Rights-era figures.

“While remembering people like Pratt or Mississippi activist Medgar Evers by erecting a bronze statue or naming a park after them is also meaningful and important, there’s something about the domesticity and “everyday-ness” of a face on a stamp that’s just as appealing. It carries emotional power.”

Inter/National News

Researchers from University College London (UCL) studying aging found that “people who engaged in the arts more frequently had a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to those who didn’t.”

The “inside-out” trend continues: Nina Siegal for the New York Times on Rotterdam’s Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and its forthcoming “Depot,” which will house completely open-to-the-public collection storage.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum found four small paintings by Yayoi Kusama in a manila envelope. Can you imagine?!

“I got an email saying ‘You need to come look at this right now!’” said [Melissa] Ho in a phone conversation.

And Finally

Whatever you celebrate, don’t forget your background singers.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Exceptionally Ordinary: Mingei 1920–2020, Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photo: Nina Dubinsky.
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Object of the Week: Solstice Echo

In the weeks leading up to the winter solstice, light—increasingly subsumed by darkness—feels like a precious resource. It can be easy to forget just how much we rely on daylight, and difficult to remember what life was like even six months ago. Luckily, Saturday brings with it the shortest day and longest night of the year, and longer and longer days thereafter.

For artist Edda Renouf, the solstice is a perfect subject given her interest in light, nature, and the passage of time. Known for her minimal and meditative compositions, Renouf’s paintings and works on paper often engage material qualities that are intrinsic to her given mediums. In Solstice Echo, for example, the weave of the paper is enhanced by the verticality of the composition’s emergent form, further dramatized by deep red and black oil pastel hues.

In the words of Renouf, whose work is often linked to post-minimalism and the work of Agnes Martin: “Materials speak to me and unexpected things happen. It is from a silent conversation between materials and imagination, from intuitive listening that the paintings and drawings are born.” Renouf’s quiet and meditative compositions reveal essential truths about painting and drawing through simple formal decisions.

In Solstice Echo, the oil pastel sits on the surface of the textured paper—calling attention to its two-dimensionality—but also highlights a depth and deeper material structure that belies the paper’s inherent flatness. Taken together with the work’s title, Solstice Echo is indeed a meditation on light and space, capturing the subtle tension between lightness and darkness.

Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection & Provenance Associate

Image: Solstice Echo, 2004, Edda Renouf, oil pastel on paper, 9 1/2 x 8 1/4 in., The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, 2008.29.31 ©Edda Renouf
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The Kimerly Rorschach Fund for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In September 2019, Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, retired after seven years of leading the institution and an illustrious 25-year career in the arts. When Rorschach joined SAM in November 2012, she set her sights on creating a schedule of exhibitions and programs for the museum’s three locations that was compelling and timely and that would resonate with a rapidly growing and diversifying Seattle community. 

During her tenure, equity and inclusion also became top priorities. As part of a commitment to building racial equity, addressing institutional racism, and bringing forth real change, she led the museum’s participation in Turning Commitment into Action, a cohort led and funded by the Office of Arts & Culture in partnership with Office for Civil Rights in 2015. After taking part in this important cohort, SAM established a staff leadership team dedicated to these efforts, and hired Priya Frank as Associate Director for Community Programs in the museum’s Education department and also appointed her the founding chair of the newly established Equity Team.

Beginning in 2016, SAM established racial equity training for the staff, volunteers, docent corps, and Board of Trustees. The museum also created special exhibition advisory committees to ensure that diverse community voices are part of the exhibition, programming, and marketing planning processes. Equity was added to the museum’s official values statement and integrated into the institution’s strategic plan, which guides all departments’ goals. The Emerging Arts Leader internship was also established, a paid internship aimed at candidates who are underrepresented in the museum field. These are just some of the ongoing efforts that Rorschach led the museum in pursuing.

In honor of Rorschach’s extraordinary vision in guiding the museum’s dedication to equity work, the SAM Board of Trustees, along with friends of Rorschach, have created an endowment that establishes permanent funding for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at SAM. The Kimerly Rorschach Fund for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion helps ensure that these efforts will continue at the museum and paves the way for SAM to be a leader in this crucial area of the arts.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Scott Areman
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Seattle Historical Arts for Kids Visits Flesh and Blood

The paintings in Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum span the High Renaissance and the Baroque eras, so it’s only fitting that the Early Music Youth Academy from Seattle Historical Arts for Kids would play these two pieces by Salamone Rossi in SAM’s galleries while this exhibition is hanging through January 26.

Rossi’s music displays the transition from late Renaissance compositions to more Baroque-style arrangements. This selection, “Gagliarda detta la Norsina” and “Passeggio d’un Balletto” was published in 1607. Behind the talented youths performing this music, glimpse Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes, painted sometime between 1612 and 1617. You can also spot Ribera’s Saint Jerome, 1626, and The Virgin of the Souls with Saints Clare and Francis, 1622–23, by Battistello Caracciolo. Don’t miss seeing these paintings that have never before been exhibited in Seattle—Get tickets to visit SAM today!

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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
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