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Muse/News: Virginia’s legacy, Yardbird goes opera, and the Museum Walk

SAM News

Virginia “Jinny” Wright, a pillar of the SAM family, passed away last week at the age of 91. The Seattle Times obituary of the collector and philanthropist noted that she “lived for art—and dedicated herself to sharing it with others.” KUOW and ARTnews also shared remembrances of her legacy. She will be greatly missed.

KEXP’s Hans Anderson interviewed SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu about the reimagined Seattle Asian Art Museum for their Sound & Vision show; head to their archive for Saturday, February 15 for the story, which started at 7:49 am.

More coverage for the Asian Art Museum appeared in GRAY Magazine, Post Alley, and 425 Magazine.

Local News

You have until this Saturday to check out the Jacob Lawrence works on view at Greg Kucera. The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley wrote about the artist’s “big, beautiful panels for real-life superheroes.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig keeps an eye out for what’s “Currently Hanging”; right now, it’s Agnieszka Polska’s Love Bite at the Frye Art Museum.

Tom Keogh for Crosscut on Seattle Opera’s “promising, dynamic production” of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, which explores the life of the jazz legend.

“So the piece, like Parker’s music, is full of extremes, pushing the voice’s boundaries,” [tenor Joshua] Stewart says. “When you have a piece this difficult, you have to bring to it everything you have to offer. You have to go on the full journey.”

Inter/National News

OK, this is definitely a thing: Museum Walk gives you back pain. Hyperallergic has tips to alleviate it from posture expert Mark Josefsberg.

Payal Uttam for Artsy on the most recent edition of the India Art Fair (IAF) in New Delhi, and what it said about the market for South Asian art.

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe reports on the Oakland Museum of California’s recent pivot to measuring their success by their “social impact,” rather than by usual metrics.

“This is coming at a time when museums and other cultural institutions are really trying to make a case for their existence,” says the OMCA’s associate director of evaluation and visitor insight, Johanna Jones, who led the project. “We know we make a difference in people’s lives, now we need to really demonstrate it through measurable metrics.”

And Finally

More movies for your list, post-Parasite.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Virginia Wright in her Pioneer Square gallery, Current Editions, August 1967. Photo: © Mary Randlett. All rights reserved.

Muse/News: A radical age, imagined futures, and refugee stories

SAM News

The Stranger’s Philosopher-In-Residence Charles Mudede reviews Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement, describing the historical context for what makes it radical.

“The humans of our times are so used to kitsch. But for the Victorians, it was completely new. It was radical. This is the mind-set the exhibit wants us to enter: one that had no past, only the future. The Victorian age is the cradle of our post-post-postmodern times.”

“Why see one sculpture when you can see nine acres of them?” Business Insider on popular US tourist traps and where to go instead—like SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

Crosscut’s Misha Berson on “The Bar Plays,” two plays set in bars presented in a real-life “venerable gathering place,” Washington Hall.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig visits Juventino Aranda’s show at Greg Kucera, In Dreams I Once Believed There Was a Future, which features enlarged and edited pages from Little Golden Books.

Real Change’s Lisa Edge on the “Black celestial sovereignty” in the work of Robert Pruitt; his solo show is now on view at Koplin Del Rio gallery.

“The thing that we’re living under doesn’t seem to be working for us, so maybe we need to imagine a new thing,” said Pruitt. “Myth, science fiction, all of that is a way to kind of for me to think about another kind of way of living.”

Inter/National News

Just asking: should we maybe have left these where they were? Artnet reports on the “array of amulets, gems, and lucky charms” found at Pompeii that researchers believe belonged to a female sorcerer.

Now on view at DC’s National Gallery of Art: The Life of Animals in Japanese Art, featuring “300 works drawn from 66 Japanese institutions and 30 American collections” that are all about animals (!).

“Poignant, solemn and utterly shaming”: The New York Times’ Jason Farago reviews The Warmth of Other Suns, a thematic exhibition on the global refugee crisis at the Philips Collection.

“Together they outline a more fraught view of the art of the last century, in which the refugee is not an outsider looking in, but a central actor in the writing of a global culture. ‘Refugees,’ Arendt wrote in 1943, ‘represent the vanguard of their peoples — if they keep their identity.’”

And Finally

One solution for the sad lunch break.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts & Crafts Movement, Seattle Art Museum, 2019.

Sam at SAM: Through the Back Door

On my first day at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), I was a nervous, fidgety high school senior from The Bush School who entered through the back door on Second Avenue. Fumbling with my purse I told the security guard, “Um…My name’s Samantha Simon. I think I should have a badge up there.” A shaky hand pointed to the wall filled with SAM IDs and sure enough, my face was among them. It was official: I belonged at SAM. Taking multiple wrong elevators, not realizing the museum is closed to the public on Mondays, I finally made it up to the correct 5th floor where I greeted my supervisor. Sarah Berman, Collections Coordinator and Research Associate at SAM, patiently showed me to my desk where four large coffee table books awaited me.

I smoothed my dress. “Pick a piece of art,” she told me. After a year of art history, I still hadn’t been exposed to anything past the Rococo, so when I scanned through a book labeled Contemporary Art, my mind went wild. I found a beastly wooden sculpture entitled Bovine by a local artist named Whiting Tennis. Showing Sarah, she told me that I was to write a biography on who owned that piece before it came to the museum; the technical term for this history of ownership is provenance.

For the next three days, I poured my caffeine-driven energy into finding out every piece of information I could about Greg Kucera, owner of the Greg Kucera Gallery in Pioneer Square, Seattle, and donor of Bovine. I worked in the shadows printing anything relating to Mr. Kucera, from graduation announcements to gallery reviews, and putting them in a growing pile on my desk. Finally, when I sat down to write, the words came naturally. By the end, I presented the man’s life story thus far in two pages.  After writing about Greg Kucera, I was so excited about contemporary art. I moved on to Robert and Honey Dootson, Asian and contemporary art collectors who have now passed away. Quickly becoming an obsession, I combed through SAM catalogues from the ‘70s and used the SAM library to my fullest advantage. Seattle Times articles from the 1960s became my best friend as I researched for fifteen hours, and when it came time to write, four detailed pages magically appeared. Another life: captured.  Finally, still newly fascinated with contemporary art, I decided to write about Sidney and Anne Gerber, Native American and contemporary art collectors, who had also passed away. Five pages quickly emerged.  Soon, my biographies on Greg Kucera, the Dootsons, and the Gerbers will make their way into SAM’s art database, and will be available to the public in the coming years. It’s an amazing experience to know that, because of me, those people’s stories will be heard.

Along with writing these biographies in the curatorial department, I was also given the opportunity to explore and volunteer in other departments. From conservation to registration to education, I explored SAM widely in my three weeks and learned about how a museum operates. Ducking in and out of ventilating systems, industrial elevators, and lighting rooms, I felt like a character in Narnia as I would turn a darkened corner and enter into a serene museum gallery surrounded by tourists. Like the siblings returning from Narnia, I wanted to tell the patrons about what they might be missing. I saw a room of art storage two stories high, a room behind the Porcelain Room with lighting panels to the ceiling where taped to them were practical jokes, and a conservation lab containing every chemical imaginable where a Jackson Pollock was being restored.  Of course, as a SAM patron, one may never know about any of this. The calm gallery floors are a stage and we, the staff and volunteers, the puppet-masters on the other side, have the privilege of sneaking around behind the scenes waiting for the curtain to rise, making sure the art receives the undistracted recognition it deserves.

This fall I will be leaving for college and as I will soon be finished at the museum (at least for this summer) I leave my own personal Narnia behind by exiting through the same door, but different from the way I came: More confident, independent, and ready to take my next step.