The Dark, Divine Wonder of Naples Comes to SAM

Ask of Naples, and you will likely receive a description comprised of contradictions. A sprawling Italian city at the foot of towering Mount Vesuvius. A dense metropolis bordered by open sea. A vibrant place with a violent side to its history. Visitors to SAM through January 26, 2020, will become familiar with Naples through the exhibition Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum. Drawn from the collection of one of the largest museums in Italy—dramatically situated in a former palace, atop a hill overlooking Naples—the exhibition brings together renowned artists of the High Renaissance and Neapolitan Baroque periods as it explores the intersection of physical and spiritual existence.

Naples has historically been claimed by a range of ruling powers, including the Spanish Empire for two centuries, beginning in 1503. At this time in Rome Alessandro Farnese was building a monumental collection of works by Italian Renaissance masters, including a powerful portrait of himself as Pope Paul III that he commissioned from Titian in 1543, which is on view in Flesh and Blood. This art collection was ultimately inherited by Charles of Bourbon, who brought it to Naples when he assumed power over the city in 1735.

“I am struck by the way that Neapolitan artists seem to collapse the distance between heaven and earth. This was also my sense of Naples itself—the sea, the dense city, and the hills are all squeezed into a narrow space, so you get the most amazing visual juxtapositions,” says Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. Juxtapositions are also pronounced in the development of the chiaroscuro style of painting that became a signature of the Baroque era.

In the early 17th century, a uniquely Neapolitan school of painting emerged. Among the school’s founders, was Naples native Battistello Caracciolo (1578–1635), whose stunning painting, The Virgin Rescuing Souls from Purgatory (1622–1623) presents a group of figures—saintly and earthly alike—against a darkened background that at once feels confined and infinite. Also featured prominently is Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), a Spanish painter who relocated to Naples in 1611. Like many of the works in this exhibition, his dramatic portrayal of Saint Jerome and the Angel of Judgement (1626) echoes the vivid contrasts of Naples, eternally oscillating between an enthralling light and a violent darkness. Visit Flesh and Blood to develop your own sense of Naples.

Images: The Virgin of the Souls with Saints Clare and Francis, 1622–23, Battistello Caracciolo, Italian, 1578–1635, oil on canvas, 114 3/16 × 80 11/16 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte. Pope Paul III, 1543, Titian, Italian, 1488/90–1576, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 × 34 15/16 in., Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte. 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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Donor Spotlight: Washington Greater China-Hong Kong Business Association

Entrepreneurs and professionals from Hong Kong founded the Washington Greater China-Hong Kong Business Association (WGHKBA) in 1994. WGHKBA’s core mission involves facilitating business and social interactions to enrich people’s lives who hold similar interests, while also increasing awareness of Greater China and Hong Kong’s contemporary issues. WGHKBA’s vision is to bolster successful transpacific partnerships and economic development between Greater China, Hong Kong, and Washington State.

This year, WGHKBA has graciously chosen the Seattle Asian Art Museum as the beneficiary of their 2020 Chinese New Year Gala. This year’s gala will also honor SAM’s Director Emerita, Mimi Gardner Gates, for her passion for the arts and for her creation of the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas. Each year, WGHKBA’s lunar new year celebration gathers over 900 guests, and this year’s gala includes a Luly Yang runway fashion show, traditional Lion Dance performance, and many other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The gala will be held at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, February 8, 2020.

WGHKBA’s Chairman, Benjamin Lee, commits countless hours each year to put on this gala. He shares, “The Seattle Asian Art Museum is an organization I admire and respect, so I’m very excited to help support the museum. I always like giving back to Asian-related causes, so we provide a good platform to help our community reach out and support.”            

If you would like to be a part of WGHKBA’s Chinese New Year Gala, please visit the WGHKBA website for ticket and sponsorship information.

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Object of the Week: Couplet

Oracle-bone script (jiaguwen) is a form of Chinese writing that emerged during the Shang Dynasty—dating from the 14th–11th century BCE—and is considered the earliest known form of systematic Chinese script.

Some of the oldest oracle-bone inscriptions were short texts inscribed on the flat shoulder blade bones of oxen and shells of tortoises. Such bones were used for divination, a process which involved the inscription of a question with a bronze pin—lending the script its characteristic angularity—and then heating the bone to reveal cracks, which would be divined for answers.

The symbols used eventually became words, which were later developed into a Chinese script that is recognized today as part of China’s long tradition of calligraphic arts. This work by Rao Zongyi, titled Couplet, utilizes the ancient script, brought to life for a contemporary audience.

Rao—a poet, calligrapher, painter, and scholar of the humanities—produced the couplet in 1971 while a visiting professor at Yale University. Composed by Rao, the poem describes in red ink a kun-style operatic performance by Chang Ch’ung. Together the two scrolls read: The wind makes the snow dance amidst the sunlight, the music hangs like clouds on her garments.

Elisabeth Smith, SAM Collection and Provenance Associate

Couplet, 1971, Rao Zongyi, red ink on paper, 74 5/16 x 14 3/16 in., Gift of Chang Ch’ung-ho and Hans Frankel from their collection, 2010.9.6.1-.2 © Artist or Artist’s Estate

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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!

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Reimagining the Galleries at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

When the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens next year, visitors will experience the museum’s renowned collection of Asian art in a whole new way. Most of the original galleries will showcase the museum’s collection, while the building’s new gallery—housed in the expansion—will focus on rotating special exhibitions. SAM’s curatorial team saw the renovation process as an exciting chance to rethink how visitors engage with the Asian art collection. “How often does a museum go offline and move everything out?” notes Foong Ping, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art. She continues, “This was an opportunity to dream a little bit.” 

The curators convened groups of scholars and community advisors to explore approaches to displaying SAM’s artworks. Moving away from the chronological and geographic organization of most museums, they took a thematic approach instead. Each gallery of Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, the new collection installation, focuses on a theme central to Asia’s diverse arts and societies, ranging from worship and celebration, to visual arts and literature, to clothing and identity. For instance, a gallery titled Spiritual Journeys brings many objects together, from a Pakistani Bodhisattva, to an Indian Stupa, to a Chinese demon, to explore spiritual imagery through unifying ideas such as spiritual guides and guardians. The reinstallation provides an experience of great diversity and a broad context within which to engage with artworks.

Boundless also presents varied voices and perspectives on artworks to offer visitors a wide array of approaches to appreciating SAM’s collection. Along with traditional curatorial texts, artists and Seattle community members also offer their perspectives. The Color in Clay gallery presents a large selection of ceramics from China as well as vibrant works from Vietnam to Iran in a natural light-filled gallery without any contextualizing text. Monitors with more information will be available, but Foong’s hope is for visitors to be immersed in looking closely at subtle differences in tones and textures in the clay and the glazes. “I’m particularly excited about this display because it represents a completely different experience than we’ve ever had at the Asian Art Museum,” she says.

The first special exhibition Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art also draws primarily from the museum’s collection. It brings together works by 12 artists born in different parts of Asia—Azerbaijan, Iran, India, Thailand, China, Korea, and Japan—who have all lived outside of Asia and are exploring their Asian heritage from global perspectives. Be/longing features Some/One by Do Ho Suh—a sculpture so large that we were previously unable to exhibit it at the Asian Art Museum. SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art Xiaojin Wu explains, “Some/One is an imposing work that compels the viewer to think about identity and our relationship with society—issues we all care about.” Positioning Some/One alongside works by other contemporary artists, visitors will encounter its powerful resonance in a new exhibition, a new gallery, a new building, in the new year.

Images: Some/One (detail), 2001, Do Ho Suh, stainless steel military dog-tags, nickel-plated copper sheets, steel structure, glass fiber reinforced resin, rubber sheets, diameter at base: 24 ft. 4 in.; Height: 81 in., Gift of Barney A. Ebsworth, 2002.43, © Do Ho Suh. Dish with Foliated Rim, late 15th–early 16th century, Vietnamese, blue and white ceramic, 13 1/4″ diameter, Mary and Cheney Cowles, the Margaret E. Fuller Fund, and the 1999 Maryatt Gala Fund, 2000.118. Seated demon figure, 14th century, Chinese, bronze with gilt, 3 1/4 x 2 x 1 7/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 52.45. Lined robe (detail), 20th century, Japanese, plain weave silk crepe with paste-resist stencil decoration (Oki., bingata) lined with modern replacement silk broadcloth, 47 3/4″ long (from collar) x 43″ wide, Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, 89.155, © Artist or Artist’s Estate. Bodhisattva, ca. 2nd–3rd century, Pakistani, Gandhara region, dark gray schist 45 x 15 x 7 in. Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 44.63.

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Muse/News: The body in art, Seahawks posters, and your right to vote

SAM News

Have you seen Flesh and Blood: Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum? Here’s art historian and critic Gayle Clemans for the Seattle Times, tracing the exhibition’s exploration of the human body as an artistic vessel.

“Throughout the exhibition, we are reminded of how art — much like a pitcher of wine or a human body within the paintings — is a vessel for meaning and message. Gender, race, class, age, ability and size play roles in communicating these meanings, in ways that feel historically remote, intimately resonant or disappointingly familiar.”

Seattle Magazine’s Gavin Borchert writes up an exciting new SAM commission; Carpe Fin, a “Haida manga” mural by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, is now on view downtown.

“The mural conveys a vitally timely moral—a warning about the dangers of human disconnection from the natural world.”

Casey Arguelles Gregory of The Eye offers this peek inside SAM’s conservation lab and the work of Nicholas Dorman and Geneva Griswold.

“Conservators approach art from a unique vantage point, intimately located between science, art, and museum politics. ‘We’re kind of in an ivory tower, but we’re looking at the front line.’ Nicholas Dorman explains.”

Local News

Lisa Edge of Real Change reviews Iconic Black Women: Ain’t I a Woman, now on view at the Northwest African American Museum.

Brangien Davis of Crosscut on the new series of Seahawks game-day posters designed by local artists—the proceeds fund art education in Seattle schools.

And Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores visits the Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture, which is now open.

“The new museum draws attention to an often overlooked slice of Washington state history, which includes major Mexican American contributions to agriculture, railroad transportation and civil rights. It also breaks ground as the first museum in the Pacific Northwest to highlight the Mexican American experience in this region.”

Inter/National News

The Los Angeles Times shares the news that Sandra Jackson-Dumont of the Met—and formerly of SAM!—heads to LA as the new director and CEO of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Also in California: Fires. Artnet traces the threats to the Getty Museum and Charles M. Schulz Museum.

The New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin on a new Bill Traylor show at David Zwirner, with proceeds mostly going toward the Harlem Children’s Zone.

“’There is something terribly natural, terribly right, about having the Bill Traylor collection turn into money for his progeny,’ he added, referring to the Zone’s students. ‘I think he would have been — or he is — delighted about that. And I am, too.’”

And Finally

Don’t forget to vote!

– 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
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Object of the Week: Time-(B)

Two identical, white clocks sit on a scale. One—reading 12:15—appears the heavier of the two, sitting ever so slightly below its counterpart at 12:04. Of course, the minute discrepancy (pun intended) between the weights of the two clocks—correlating with their respective times—is impossible, but the power of the photographic image lies in its ability to convince us otherwise.

Ever a master of the conceptual punchline, photographer Kenji Nakahashi plays with our interpretation of time and its assumed objectivity. His longstanding interest in the documentary value and, again, assumed objectivity of photography—a time-based medium—is also at play, and clearly inextricable. In his characteristically understated way, Nakahashi tackles the subjectivity of both time and photography in one fell swoop.

Born in present-day Ibigawa, Japan, Nakahashi moved to New York City in 1973, where he lived until his death in 2017. His time in Japan was formative, but living and working in the United States is where Nakahashi developed a robust studio practice centered on everyday objects and materials. This is when he began turning the mundane—such as two clocks and a scale—into a source of poetic beauty, conceptual rigor, and humor. For Nakahashi, such small observations and actions became an important activity that allowed him to render the world anew.

Elisabeth Smith, Collection and Provenance Associate

Time-(B), 1980, Kenji Nakahashi, ektacolor print, sheet: 11 x 14 in., Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Kazuo Kondo, 95.35 ©Artist or Artist’s Estate

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Lauren Farris: Emerging Arts Leader Intern Look at SAM

“Vulnerability” has been a bit of a buzz word ever since Brené Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.” Having watched Brené’s TED Talk and read one of her books, I value vulnerability a lot, but being vulnerable myself can still feel fairly nerve-wracking. So when the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern and I were asked to lead a My Favorite Things Tour, little did I know that the next 10 weeks would also include a road trip down vulnerability lane. 

When I first heard about the tour, I thought this tour would remain in the realm of theoretical, academic concepts. To be fair, a large part of the process involved researching the history behind each piece, utilizing resources from SAM’s libraries (thanks, Traci, Jordyn, and Yueh-Lin!), and meeting with curators (thanks, Pam and Chiyo!). But along with the historical research, our mentors and colleagues, Rachel, Seohee, David, and Priya (thank you all!), encouraged us to delve vulnerably into our stories and weave them into each piece. 

Because of this, I began asking myself some questions about my story, including being mixed race. For a while, I’ve been nervous about my voice because being mixed race often feels like a grey area between two distinct points of view and voices in society. But as I worked on the tour, each of our mentors and countless people shared their time, insight, stories, and vulnerability to help me process, ask deeper questions, and craft the content of the tour. Without them, the tour and this blog post would look entirely different. 

Not to mention, I’ll always cherish the times the other Emerging Arts Leader Intern, Cat, and I practiced nearly 50 versions of our ever-evolving tour with each other. Because our tours delved into more personal topics, we became each other’s support and cheerleader through a lot of ups and a few downs. Together, we also arranged informational interviews with staff across many departments, assisted at events like SAM Remix, DragonFest, and Summer Institute for Educators, and attended department and equity team meetings. I learned so much from working with Cat (miss you!) and love the ways in which SAM values and integrates collaboration. 

Throughout this entire internship, I’ve learned so much about museums, equity work within museums, and about myself. The interdisciplinary focus provided the opportunity to learn about many of the departments that comprise SAM. All throughout and above the galleries, it’s inspiring to see how many dedicated individuals play a role – from fundraising to checking coats to communicating with the press to leading student tours—to make SAM the museum that it is. 

I also learned a lot about equity work in museums that I didn’t know before. I’ve realized that it’s not enough to know some terms or read some papers or books, but it takes the vulnerability to ask myself the same questions within these papers. And it takes the bravery to answer these questions honestly. 

SAM gave me a safe space to ask questions and come from a posture of growth and progression rather than perfection. More than ever, I’ve learned how crucial and empowering it is to connect with people who share both similar and different experiences. The ways that SAM strives for equity within education, programming, exhibitions, staff, and every part of SAM is inspiring. SAM is opening up dialogue, asking themselves, and others, critical questions, and aiming to lead and learn with each step towards furthering inclusivity and equity. SAM taught me that it takes vulnerability and guts to genuinely look at equity within ourselves in order to implement equity institutionally and beyond.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who made this internship so special. And guess what? I’m so grateful, honored, and thrilled to continue on with SAM’s amazing Development Team as a Campaign Assistant! See you around!

– Lauren Farris, SAM Campaign Assistant & 2019 Emerging Arts Leader Intern

Photos: Natali Wiseman.

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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
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