Did you know that SAM Gallery has been around for 45 years?! In 1973 the Seattle Art Museum’s Rental/Sales Gallery was started by a visionary group of docents led by Jackie Macrae. They operated out of a space in the Seattle Center, selling the work of local artists in order to raise money for SAM’s volunteer programs. When the gallery turned out to be successful, a part-time employee was hired in 1989. That person was Barbara Shaiman, a local ceramics artist who also ran Shaiman Contemporary Craft. Shaiman worked for the Seattle Art Museum for 24 years and continues to attend openings, as well as show her own work. In 2000, Jody Bento began to work for Shaiman at SAM and today, Bento continues to oversee the gallery. In the 45 years that SAM Gallery has rented and sold Northwest contemporary art, it has mounted hundreds of shows including thousands of Northwest artists. Check out the current roster of SAM Gallery artists.
To celebrate this milestone, we’re sharing some photos from over the years. Join in the success of the gallery and spend time with some of SAM Gallery’s Northwest artists at the opening for the 45th Anniversary Show on First Thursday, November 1.
Images: Photo: Natali Wiseman. Jody Bento, left, Barbara Shaiman, right, pictured with paintings by Deborah Bell. Photos: Ben Benschneider. Attendees at SAM Gallery opening, 2017. Jody Bento, Associate Director SAM Gallery, pictured in the gallery’s Seattle Tower location. Photo: Jen Au.
The photo archive at SAM begins in 1933 and spans 81 years to 2014, serving as a visual gateway into the expansive history of exhibits, programs, and events that have taken place here. The sheer scale of the photo archive is impressive: various sizes of negatives, color negatives and positives, prints, slides, CDs, and even floppy disks. The archive functions not only as photographic evidence of SAM’s expansion and influence over the course of its tenure, but also as a physical reminder of the advancement in photographic documentation technology.
In January 2017, we began taking inventory of all the materials in the photo archive. The project currently consists of assessing photographic materials, removing duplicates, improving the overall organization of the files through relabeling and rehousing, and inputting information about the exhibitions and events depicted in the photographs into a digital spreadsheet.
As we progress through the photo archive chronologically, we become more aware of how SAM’s presence in Seattle has inspired and driven the city to become a destination for experiencing art from around the world. The archive is a visual and tactile record of the breadth and scope of exhibitions, events, and community involvement that have shaped the Seattle Art Museum since 1933. Much of the material highlights the annual events that have taken place at SAM, like the Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists (1914–1974), and the Annual Exhibitions of Residential Architecture (1950–1980), architecture tours organized by SAM volunteers of homes in the Puget Sound region.
A noteworthy event is depicted in a photograph of a prominent SAM donor, Mrs. Kress, greeting Queen Elizabeth in Washington DC in 1961. Mrs. Kress was in DC for the transfer of gifts from the Kress Foundation Collection to 18 US museums, including SAM.
Another is a photograph of two important figures in Seattle’s arts community past: SAM founder Dr. Richard Fuller and art supporter Betty Bowen, lighting candles on a cake made for artist Mark Tobey’s (of the Northwest School) 80th birthday party held at the museum.
In 1991, SAM moved from its original Volunteer Park location (now the Asian Art Museum) to its present downtown location on First Avenue. Highlights from the archive during this decade include a file from 1991 that houses color prints and slides documenting the installation of the marble Chinese camels (14th–17th century) at the new downtown location. The photos show installers wearing hard hats working together to elevate the sculptures, now located in SAM’s grand stairway.
In a file dated November 19, 1993 there is a public relations announcement with the headline “APEC Economies Present Seattle Art Museum with Gifts from Around the World” and a myriad of photos and newspaper clippings documenting the event. On November 19, 1993, the Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park was the site of the 19th Asia Pacific Economic Conference leadership reception attended by heads of state from 15 Asia-Pacific nations. In a display of international goodwill, several economies participating in the conference offered SAM gifts of artwork from their respective nations. The conference also featured a piece by nine-year-old Skylar Gronholz, chosen as the piece that best represents the theme of “international economic cooperation” from a student competition. Skyler unveiled his work to President Clinton and the 15 world leaders during the conference.
A file dated February 11, 1994, a seemingly ordinary day, contains a series of prints documenting the arrival and greeting of SAM’s millionth visitor. There is no name listed in the file, but number 1,000,000 was photographed smiling and receiving flowers in front of the admissions desk as well as on her trip through SAM’s galleries. These documented moments within the archive showcase the involvement and enthusiasm of people inside and outside of Seattle who have fostered a space for SAM to successfully bring art to the community; effectively and accurately presenting SAM as a nexus of local engagement and international collaboration.
The Seattle Art Museum’s dedication to bringing art to Seattle residents and visitors alike is made visually evident in the photo archive. Through this project, our goal is to eventually make the archive more accessible. We believe greater access will lead to a heightened awareness and a more nuanced understanding of SAM’s involvement in the region and its enduring impact on the Seattle arts community.
– Kelsey Novick and Holly Palmer, Photo Archive Interns
Library visitors might not expect materials like pamphlets to constitute a substantial place in the Seattle Art Museum Research Libraries’ collections. In fact, reflecting on their own use of pamphlets and the fact that they are generally small in comparison to other published materials, many might even view them as disposable items. Yet, despite their small stature, they contain a powerhouse of information!
Pamphlets are relatively small, ephemeral publications which generally focus on a specific event, artist, or piece of artwork. Many pamphlets contain biographies, lists of exhibits and artwork, as well as artist or curator statements. In addition, they often contain reproductions of artworks illustrating the design preferences and artistic styles of an era. For many artists, particularly lesser known Pacific Northwest artists, pamphlets may be the only form of written material available making them incredibly important for the overall history of art in the Pacific Northwest.
Pamphlets are generally published by the museum or gallery hosting the exhibition, and may have originally been intended as takeaway items for visitors. The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library at SAM, in particular, houses pamphlets from institutions large and small, and has been actively building its collection with items from smaller galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest. This collection of materials enables researchers to build a more complete picture of a gallery’s history including locations, curators and directors, name changes, and more. The collection also includes pamphlets from around the world giving users a glimpse at the reach a particular artist might have at a given time. Following the progression of pamphlets through the years provides an interesting look into the changing views and portrayals of cultural issues such as race, indigenous rights, women’s rights, etc. It’s a great visual means of understanding the issues of importance to artists, museums, and the public at large.
Over the past few months, we’ve created a more bona fide pamphlet collection, adding incoming pamphlets there, rather than into our general book collection (where we had been putting such things in the past). We’ve also begun the process of relocating pamphlets currently in our book collection to the pamphlet collection. Collocating all of the pamphlets provides better access to the materials overall and allows researchers to get a clearer picture of the type of information they might find. For example, if you were looking for critical theory on Picasso, you may not find the pamphlets particularly helpful given the amount of other materials pertaining to Picasso within our collection. However, if you were looking to put together a timeline of a lesser known artist, you would likely find pamphlets very useful.
We’ve made the pamphlet collection as easy to find as possible. When searching the library catalogue, just look for the term “pamphlet” either at the end of the title or in the call number to determine whether or not the record you are accessing is a pamphlet. To see a full list of the pamphlets we’ve acquired thus far, see the Pamphlet Collection title list.
Now on view at SAM Gallery—Seattle Art Museum’s art sales and rental gallery—through April 21 is Flourishes, an exhibition featuring three Northwest artists whose work involves embellishments, ornaments, waves, fonts, and graffiti. We talked with each of the artists to learn how SAM Gallery increases their exposure and finds audiences for their work.
Exhibiting at SAM Gallery since 2011
What has been your experience of exhibiting at SAM Gallery so far? I am extremely pleased to have my work as a part of SAM Gallery on an ongoing basis. Not only do I benefit through frequent rentals and sales, but I’m elated that part of my commission goes back to support such an important arts organization as the Seattle Art Museum. The entire staff at SAM Gallery is always welcoming and very professional. They are a joy to work with and I feel extremely comfortable sending friends, clients, and collectors to them.
How has showing your work at SAM Gallery impacted your career as an artist? The other gallery on San Juan Island that represents my work first saw my work at SAM Gallery, and the staff were generous enough to share my info with her.
Exhibiting at SAM Gallery since 2014
What has been your experience of exhibiting at SAM Gallery so far? It’s been truly wonderful and encouraging, the enthusiasm for the work I make has made a big difference in my approach and experimentation. I’m very happy here.
How has showing your work at SAM Gallery impacted your career as an artist? I had been wanting to show for some time, and thanks to the staff and interest by SAM Gallery, I’m able to showcase work that I have been showing out of Seattle, in places like Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Portland, Cincinnati, and Berlin.
Exhibiting at SAM Gallery since 2010
How did exhibiting your work at SAM Gallery come about? I had relocated to Seattle from Santa Fe and was looking for gallery representation—so many people that I met in Seattle referred me to SAM Gallery as having “the best artists in the Pacific Northwest.” I’ve been showing exclusively with SAM Gallery as my PNW representation since 2012.
How has showing your work at SAM Gallery impacted your career as an artist? Through SAM Gallery my work has been introduced to new collectors (especially young collectors, which is often a “missing” demographic for many commercial galleries) and museum patrons—a much larger community of people who are looking at and experiencing art. Additionally, SAM Gallery has connected and introduced me to countless established and emerging artists in the Pacific Northwest—I often leave a SAM Gallery visit totally inspired to paint and excited to be in a strong, supportive (and growing!) arts community like Seattle.
Interested in buying or renting work from SAM Gallery? Find out more information and browse our inventory, or stop by!
Images: Photo courtesy of Nina Tichava. Play of Light, Nichole DeMent. Queen Bee, Harold Hollingsworth. Pacific Northwest in Orange 1, Nina Tichava.
On September 21, 2015, The Betty Bowen Committee announced that Jack Daws is the winner of the 2015 Betty Bowen Award. The award comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $15,000. A selection of Daws’ work will be on view at the Seattle Art Museum beginning November 19, 2015. The award honors a Northwest visual artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work.
Eirik Johnson was selected to receive the Special Recognition Award in the amount of $2,500, and Lou Watson was awarded the Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award, also in the amount of $2,500. Six finalists—including Susan Dory, Samantha Scherer and Sadie Wechsler—were chosen from a pool of 537 applicants from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and competed for $20,000 in awards. Daws, Johnson, and Watson will receive their awards on Thursday, November 19 at 6 pm at SAM. The award ceremony and reception are free and the public is invited to join the celebration.
2015 Betty Bowen Award Winner
Jack Daws, Vashon, WA
Jack Daws is a self-taught artist who lives on Vashon Island and is originally from Kentucky. In his practice, Daws cross-examines the blind spots of salient moments in American history, from Chief Seattle to recent social and political events. Frequently, his appropriated objects seem innocuous and everyday but upon close inspection, they reveal a more troubling undercurrent that asks us to reconsider established truths and values. He recently exhibited The House That Jack Built at Mercer Gallery of Walden 3 in 2014, and contributed to the ongoing site-specific exhibition Duwamish Revealed, organized by the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle. His work satirically asks ponderous questions in order to enlighten the public. Through visually common and memorable works, he encourages his audience to reexamine their world.
Special Recognition Award
Eirik Johnson, Seattle, WA
Eirik Johnson earned his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute after graduating from the University of Washington with a BFA in Photography and a BA in History. His current body of work is Mushroom Camps, in which he documents the unique economy and culture surrounding the Matsutake mushroom. By recording the people and places along the mushroom’s journey from Oregon to Japan, Johnson reveals unexpected connections, reflecting current commercial and social issues.
Kayla Skinner Special Recognition Award
Lou Watson, Portland
Lou Watson attended the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake, California and graduated with her BFA in Intermedia from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. Her recent work includes an experimental concert, Suite Sandy Boulevard at the Hollywood Theater (Portland, Oregon); In Celebration of Pig Pens, an installation at the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s Portland Building, and a film entitled commute that showed at the Experiments in Cinema Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Working in a variety of media, Watson discovers a sense of wonder in the mundane. She refashions her regular routine into a concert, a dance, and a work of art, adding splendor and excitement to the experience of daily life.
For more information about the Betty Bowen Award and how the winners are chosen, visit our website.