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Sculpture Park Summers Are For Conservation

Perched on a hillside overlooking the watery expanse of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a welcoming, art-filled green space. Free and open to the public year-round, the park plays host to visitors in every season. Because of its exposed, marine location, the sculptures that live at the park are subject to deterioration from both environmental and human causes. We take good care of the sculptures, cleaning and tending them year-round, but with Seattle’s rainy winters, summer is the window in which conservation maintenance and treatments can be carried out. Despite the pandemic, this summer was no exception as without maintenance, deterioration both structural and aesthetic quickly compromises the sculptures and installations. 

If you visited the sculpture park this summer, you probably noticed the massive white tent covering Alexander Calder’s The Eagle. The distinctive red paint coating Calder’s soaring, swooping sculpture had deteriorated and needed repainting. Thanks to a generous grant from Bank of America, The Eagle received new primers and a new coat of red paint. It looks amazing! Due to a multi-year collaboration between art conservators, the artist’s estates, coatings scientists, industrial paint manufacturers and industrial painters and advances in polymer technology, the new coating will be more durable than the previous one while still maintaining the color, saturation and low gloss finish of the original paint.

Echo by Jaume Plensa sits near the shoreline and can be seen from some of the ferries that cross Elliott Bay. Made from marble dust and polyester resin over a steel framework, Echo’s off-white exterior becomes discolored throughout the year. Not only distracting from the beauty of the sculpture, this soiling, for which we can partially thank the feathered friend pictured above, speeds the deterioration of the artwork. To protect Echo, SAM conservators cleaned her and applied a sacrificial coating. As the sculpture is over 45 feet tall, this was no small feat!

Offering visitors an opportunity to pause and shelter from the sun or rain, Seattle Cloud Cover by Teresita Fernández is a series of laminated glass panels encasing abstract, color-saturated photographs. Attached to the bridge over the railroad tracks that cross under the park, its glass panels needed cleaning. Using long-handled brushes, dirt, dust and other debris were carefully cleaned from the top and pedestrian-facing panels. Additionally, caulk used in the brackets holding the glass panels was scraped out and replaced. Caulk shrinks and swells with changes in humidity and deteriorates due to age and weather exposure.

Mark Di Suvero’s Schubert Sonata, a ribbon of twisting steel that rotates on a single, carefully balanced point, is sited near the Olympic Sculpture Park shoreline. With its proximity to Puget Sound, chlorides (naturally occurring salts present in the air near bodies of water) are a concern. These chlorides cause aggressive, rapid corrosion of uncoated steel and other metals such as bronze. To address this issue, while maintaining the raw steel aesthetic of the artist, a corrosion inhibiting protectant was applied. Invisible to the eye, this coating will extend the sculpture’s lifespan.

These projects are just a sampling of the conservation treatments completed over the last few months. Other conservation treatments included cleaning and coating bronze sculptures and addressing loses in painted surfaces to prevent corrosion. In addition to these projects, members of the SAM conservation team are regularly onsite at the park to make sure that each sculpture is looking its best. Before the rainy, short days of our northwest winter drive us all indoors, get yourself to the Olympic Sculpture Park to enjoy the stunning artwork and expansive views.

– Rachel Harris, Asian Art Conservation Center Associate

Images: The Eagle, 1971, Alexander Calder, painted steel, 465 x 390 x 390 in., Gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2000.69 © Calder Foundation/Artist’s Rights Society, NY. Many thanks to Diamond Painting LLC for their work on the Eagle repainting project. Echo, 2011, Jaume Plensa, Spanish, Born 1955, Polyester resin, marble dust, steel framework, Height: 45 ft. 11 in., footprint at base: 10 ft. 8 in. x 7 ft. 1 in., gross weight: 13,118 lb, Gift of Barney A. Ebsworth, 2013.22 © Jaume Plensa. Seattle Cloud Cover, Design Approved 2004; Fabrication Completed 2006, Teresita Fernández, American, Born 1968, Laminated glass with photographic design interlayer, approx. 9 ft. 6 in. x 200 ft. x 6 ft. 3 in., Olympic Sculpture Park Art Acquisition Fund, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006.140 © Teresita Fernández. Schubert Sonata, 1992, Mark Di Suvero, American, Born 1933, Painted and unpainted steel, Height: 22 ft., Gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, The Virginia Wright Fund, and Bagley Wright, 95.81. © Mark di Suvero.

Muse/News: Support for SAM, Intiman’s Next Stage, and Lost Art Found

SAM News

Looking out from a place that looks out: The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig considers Louise Bourgeois’s Eye Benches at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

“It’s a dreamy experience to sit on the back of an eye. A surreal proposition that makes your observations of people, sky, park, and mountain so literal.”

Last week, the Seattle arts community received very welcome news: The Friday Foundation has gifted $9 million to nine organizations in the Seattle arts community, including the Seattle Art Museum. The foundation honors the lives and legacies of the late Jane Lang Davis and Richard E. Lang, inspired collectors and supporters of the arts. The Seattle Times and KUOW both announced the news.

Local News

For International Examiner, Danielle Quenelle reviews two Pioneer Square shows: Lakshmi Muirhead at J. Rinehart Gallery and Humaira Abid at Greg Kucera Gallery.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores reflects on how the pandemic has changed her role as an arts writer, and how she’s witnessed the resiliency of Seattle’s arts scene.

Intiman Theatre has a new home after eight nomadic years; it will become theater-in-residence and leader of a new program at Seattle Central College. The Seattle Times’ Brendan Kiley reports on the unique arrangement.

“‘If you look at the mission of the Seattle colleges and the mission of Intiman, they are so well aligned,’ [Sheila] Edwards Lange said. ‘I hope this will change the face of theater not only in our city but across the country.’”

Inter/National News

“A work you may not know—but should.” Artnet’s Katie White with a close reading of an oil pastel by Hollis Sigler. Another work by the feminist artist is currently on view at SAM in the installation, On the Edge.

Deana Lawson has won the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize, reports ARTnews. She is the first photographer to win the $100,000 award.

Thrilling news: One of the five missing panels from Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series has been found. Visitors will be able to see the newly discovered panel along with the others when SAM presents The American Struggle next spring.

“Last week a friend of mine went to the show and said, ‘There’s a blank spot on the wall and I believe that’s where your painting belongs,’ ” she continued. “I felt I owed it both to the artist and the Met to allow them to show the painting.”

And Finally

Jam not to scale.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Eye Benches I, 1996-1997, Louise Bourgeois. black Zimbabwe granite, 48 3/4 x 53 x 45 1/4 in., Gift of the artist, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2005.113.1-2 © Louise Bourgeois, photo: C.E. Mitchell

Muse/News: Dawn Cerny Wins Award, Venus Suggests Life, and RBG’s Love for Operas

SAM News

SAM announced last week that Dawn Cerny is the winner of the 2020 Betty Bowen Award, an annual juried award for Pacific Northwest artists. Cerny will receive $15,000 and a solo exhibition at SAM in 2021. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig shared the news, as did Artdaily.

Beverly Aarons for South Seattle Emerald interviews Barbara Earl Thomas about her upcoming exhibition at SAM, The Geography of Innocence, which features cut-paper portraits of Black children, many from the artist’s life.

“But she didn’t want to just capture them exactly as they were — she wanted to answer in her work the question, ‘What do I wish for them?’ Thomas didn’t want to talk about what she didn’t want — racism, violence, tragic deaths — but she wanted the work to embody the hope for the children’s futures.”

Tamara Gane for The Washington Post on “art alfresco,” recommending the best sculpture parks in the US to commune with art outside—and leading with SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park.

Local News

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig and Chase Burns previews four “don’t-miss” documentaries at the upcoming Local Sightings Film Festival.

“Washington State Is All Over the National Book Awards Longlist,” reports Seattle Met’s Stefan Milne. Get reading!

Muse/News really can’t take one more story about penguins visiting locked-down museums. Where are the penguins for SAM?? Anyway, here’s Crosscut’s Brangien Davis with her weekly editor’s letter, where she talks life on Venus, penguins in museums (sob!), and art classes for your health.

“I would argue that the Venus discovery is cultural, in the vein of Carl Sagan’s assertion that we’re all ‘made of star stuff.’ The mystifying connections across our vast universe contribute to the culture we humans create, even if subconsciously, or via some microscopic cellular nudge.”

Inter/National News

Yinka Elujoba for the New York Times on Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, which “succeeds in making visible, and even visceral, America’s history with the struggle for racial and political equality.” The exhibition is now on view at The Met and heads to SAM early next year.

The Brooklyn Museum made headlines last week when it announced it would sell twelve works from its collection at auction, to support the “management and care” of its full collection. They are the first major museum to take advantage of loosened regulations—due to the difficulties brought on by the coronavirus—around deaccessioning of works.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at the age of 87, leaving an immense legacy as a scholar, jurist, human—and opera lover. This tribute offers insights into the legal scholar’s intense advocacy for the arts.

“…those kinds of cases she made her career of are the stuff of opera. The underdog, the ill-served character: Manon Lescaut, Violetta, women who have to struggle their way to the top for survival. They connected to her sense of right and wrong and what is a humane way of living.”

And Finally

“A good time for thinking about Francisco Goya is while the world stumbles.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: The farm that was there and then not, 2020, wood, handblown glass, plaster tape, wire, paint, clay, 27 x 22 x 14 in., Courtesy of the artist, © Dawn Cerny

Muse/News: Fall into Art, Madrigal’s Music, and Painting A Democracy

SAM News

The Seattle Times’ Fall Arts Guide landed this Sunday; here, Megan Burbank looks at the upcoming season of visual arts. Burbank also visited SAM on its first day being open again to the public; she reported on the “subtle, early-bird cheer” of the galleries.

“And for the most part, things were surprisingly normal. Traffic in the museum flowed easily. Between a pair of spectators chatting casually on a bench and the lack of windows, time passed easily, and aside from the masks and the crowd level, it didn’t seem all that different from visiting a museum pre-COVID.”

Last week, the Seattle Times’ Alan Berner dropped by for a visit to Alexander Calder’s The Eagle at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which has been tented all summer for a major repainting. Keep an eye out for its unveiling in all its Calder-red glory.

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Paige Cornwell recently profiled Edy Hideyoshi Horikawa, a decorated veteran who served with the celebrated 442nd Regiment while his family lived in an incarceration camp and who became an artist and teacher upon his return. He celebrated his 100th birthday in August and was fêted with a drive-by parade.

Rena Priest shares her essay with Seattle Met from a forthcoming collection that explores Seattle’s storytelling heritages and what its UNESCO City of Literature designation means.

Crosscut’s Agueda Pacheco Flores interviews Seattle conductor Paula Nava Madrigal about how she’s “disrupting the traditionally white, male discipline of conducting.” Madrigal will once again conduct a Mexican Independence Day concert, which this year is going virtual.

“‘There’s an energy that comes from the orchestra that I’m communicating to the public,’ she explains. ‘It’s like a time machine where I am bringing the past into the present and creating the future.’”

Inter/National News

The New York Times reports on two important New York art-world news items: The Met’s hiring of Dr. Patricia Marroquin Norby (Purépecha) as its first full-time Native American curator, and the Studio Museum’s continued innovation of its artist-in-residence program, with four artists named to remote residencies this season, including Jacolby Satterwhite as a mid-career artist.

Artnet is out with its annual Intelligence Report on the art market, which this year launches an “Innovators List”: “a group of 51 entrepreneurs, artists, dealers, and others who are lighting the way toward the future with vision, chutzpah, and grit.”

Hyperallergic’s Valentina Di Liscia reports on Vote.org’s nonpartisan initiative that “seeks to channel the power of art to encourage voter participation,” working with artists such as Sanford Biggers, Jenny Holzer, and Julie Mehretu.

“Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey believes that art may hold the key to educating and mobilizing citizens across the nation to exercise their right to vote… ‘If we lower the barriers to political engagement and turn more people out to vote, together, we can paint a more representative democracy.’”

And Finally

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Award finalists are out. Tag yourself; I’m Faceplant Baby Elephant.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: L Fried

Muse/News: Change at SAM, BLM meets AR, and a virtual tour of Harlem

SAM News

Last week, SAM announced that Priya Frank, leader of SAM’s Equity Team since 2016, has been promoted as the museum’s first-ever Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig interviewed Priya about her “new, rare” position.

“‘Real change is going to take time,’ she said. ‘We’re not going to undo structural racism in a day or a year or within a strategic plan. It’s an ongoing lifelong commitment. But it’s amazing to see things we envisioned and dreamt of happening.’”

Local News

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger also spent some time this week taking in public art with a pocket beer in hand; consider following her “quick and dirty guide” to some of the best public art in Seattle, including Richard Serra’s Wake at the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Kamna Shastri for Real Change on Student Art Spaces, a youth-led initiative whose mission is to “amplify student voices in art through gallery exhibitions and events,” especially in terms of equity and accessibility.

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on Amp’Up Seattle, an augmented reality art show created by designers at architecture and design firm GGLO for the Seattle Design Festival.

“‘The main aim was to have these locations have a new meaning to them,’ [Gargi] Kadoo says. She hopes people will use the app and artworks as an opportunity to ‘revisit the focus of the BLM movement,’ she adds. ‘Keep that heat and conversation going.’”

Inter/National News

Remember going places? Consider taking this virtual tour of Harlem, “New York’s most storied neighborhood,” led by the celebrated architect David Adjaye.

Sometimes a quick look at “the best and worst of the art world this week” is what you need to get caught up on all the news. Thanks, Artnet.

Artnet shares an opinion essay about the threat of climate change from Nick Merriman, chief executive of the Horniman Museum & Gardens in London.

“Museums must use their position as long-term memory institutions to look beyond short-term political and funding cycles and speak out about issues that are existential threats to all of us. This involves changes in two main areas: in museums and galleries’ operating models, and in their relationship with the public.”

And Finally

Hearken back to the days of innocently enjoying public transit with this breakdown of transit chimes by chord interval.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Stephanie Fink

Muse/News: Eagle’s makeover, open gazes, and dancing wire

SAM News

Brangien Davis of Crosscut notices that Alexander Calder’s The Eagle, the monumental sculpture that perches in the Olympic Sculpture Park, has its own protective covering these days. She spoke with SAM Chief Conservator Nick Dorman about the conservation and repainting of the steel sculpture, thanks to a grant from Bank of America. Look for “the big reveal” sometime around Labor Day. 

The sculpture park is where it’s at these days: John Prentice of KOMO’s Seattle Refined interviewed SAM curator Carrie Dedon about how important accessible public art is—now more than ever.

“‘Anything that can broaden your horizons or challenge your worldview, or spark your emotions, these are the things that make us human and connect us to our humanity,’ Dedon said.”

Local News

Longtime cultural critic Misha Berson writes an opinion piece for Crosscut, outlining her thoughts on how “the arts need a New Deal to survive the pandemic.”

Tom Keogh for the Seattle Times has recommendations for some streamable films (a TV series) about presidential campaigns that “give us a peek into the peculiar business of running for the White House.”

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig takes her “Currently Hanging” series outside of Seattle; here, she visits Jordan Casteel’s Within Reach, viewable via the New Museum

“Her subject, Devan, stares openly at the viewer, seemingly aware of our gaze on his body, our intrusion on his space, our sussing out of his mental state…Devan projects an openness, a sort of straightforward vulnerability that makes this painting compelling.”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone on several upcoming art projects in Tusla, Oklahoma to memorialize the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, during which white mobs destroyed homes and “Black Wall Street,” killing at least 300 Black residents. 

The American Alliance of Museums is out with another survey on the impacts of COVID-19; Valentina Di Liscia of Hyperallergic outlines the major findings, including that 12,000 institutions may close permanently.

Thessaly La Force for the New York Times’ T Magazine on artist Ruth Asawa, who spent her teenage years in two concentration camps for Japanese Americans during World War II and whose important sculptural work has long been overlooked.

“I have stood in a gallery hung with Asawa’s wire sculptures, where the movement of my own body has caused them to sway, the shadows of the woven wire dancing against the floor. For a moment, I was quietly transported elsewhere — to the deep sea, to a forest or maybe to someplace altogether unearthly.”

And Finally

The making of washi paper

Photo: Sarah Michael

Muse/News: Art parks, virtual festivals, and good trouble

SAM News

For Smithsonian Magazine, Elissaveta M. Brandon explores “the magic of open-air, art-studded parks.” SAM director and CEO Amada Cruz is quoted on the importance of the Olympic Sculpture Park to “the daily life of the city.”

SAM Shop is included in this HuffPost round-up of “The Best Museum Stores For Online Shopping.” Head to the site to explore SAM exclusives and other art-centric finds.

Local News

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger reports on the quiet reopening of Seattle galleries. A group of galleries had asked to be included in Phase 2 and were granted permission; with precautions in place, “going to the gallery doesn’t look that much different from before.”

Crosscut’s Brangien Davis makes a quick run to their offices at Seattle Center—and finds herself pondering public art and spaces and the stories they’ve told and tell. She also shouts out In the Spirit, a new online show of work by contemporary Native artists from the Washington State History Museum.

The Seattle Times’ Yasmeen Wafai reports on Seattle’s Bon Odori festival, which will be going virtual for the first time in its 88 years of annual celebration. 

“Although the festival won’t be the same this year, Moriguchi noted that part of Buddhism is about change and adapting, so they still plan to make the most of it. He said he will try to do a Google Hangout or Zoom with friends while they watch. Mostly, he hopes people will still dance along at home.”

Inter/National News

Lesley L. L. Blume for the New York Times on museums’ intense efforts to locate and preserve artifacts and ephemera of this three-pronged historic moment.

Writer Saidiya Hartman for Artforum on Black radical traditions of refusal and imagination, and how they persist throughout history up to the present day.

Washington Post contributor Michele Norris with a powerful tribute to civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis, who has passed away at the age of 80. In 2017, SAM was honored to host Congressman Lewis for a talk on his graphic novel, MARCH.

“He took the billy club they beat him with at Selma and turned it into a baton, a relay man running toward that promise in our founding documents that says all men are created equal when the word “all” really meant some and not others.”

And Finally

Suggested viewing: Good Trouble, the documentary directed by Dawn Porter.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Muse/News: Accumulations, Evolutions, and Dogs of The Sea

SAM News

For the new edition of ARCADE, Erin Langner reviews SAM’s John Akomfrah: Future History, which she was able to see just before the museum closed. She focuses on both the content and the technique of the artist’s immersive video essays.

“The film’s visceral urgency builds through a visual accumulation of histories. His technique calls attention to the ways that history converges with the present, often by unearthing and revisiting images that portray the brutalities many prefer not to see.”

The Olympic Sculpture Park is included in this round-up of staycation ideas from Chris Talbott for the Seattle Times; he notes “sunset would be perfect here,” which is exactly right.

Local News

Jasmyne Keimig of the Stranger returns to her “Currently Hanging” series with a snapshot of the art of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), documenting the various murals and objects while they are still in their original context.

Seattle Met shares a powerful series of photographs by Jana Early from the last weeks’ protests.

Our friends down on the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium, have reopened. The Seattle Times’ Chris Talbott talks with visitors and Aquarium leaders, including director of conservation programs and partnerships Erin Meyer, about how it’s going.

“‘Reopening is about reconnecting with our mission inspiring conservation of our marine environment,’ Meyer said. ‘And we can’t do that without being able to interact with guests.’”

Inter/National News

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone speaks with Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, about the foundation’s reorientation—or “evolution”—of its grantmaking efforts entirely towards social justice issues.

With all the local focus on Seattle public art, let’s take a look at public art in New York City. ARTNews’ Claire Selvin explores everything “from Keith Haring to Dread Scott.”

The New York Times’ David Colman on a prescient augmented reality (AR) public art project by Nancy Baker Cahill that explores six historical sites and monuments across the Eastern seaboard.

“But the greater and more urgent question dangling here is: When is a public artwork an embellishment and when is it an eyesore? Arguments about patriotism and freedom, rights and responsibilities as well as what public art should do, and represent, have been thrown into high relief in 2020.”

And Finally

Swimming with the dogs of the sea.

 Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of “John Akomfrah: Future History” at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Art walks, Juneteenth reflections, and George Floyd’s eyes

SAM News

Jeff Totey of Seattle Refined has “100 Things To Do in Seattle Right Now (or Very Soon),” including an “art walk” in SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, whose grounds are open to the public during this time.

Local News

South Seattle Emerald and Crosscut collaborated on a series of portraits of and reflections from Black Seattleites in honor of Juneteenth.

The Seattle Times’ Lewis Kamb shares all the details on how Capitol Hill’s Black Lives Matter mural came to be. Don’t miss Ken Lambert’s incredible drone image of the mural.

The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig returned to her post at the paper in time to cover all the happenings at CHOP. But her arts & culture beat still goes on. Here, she reflects on the many eyes of George Floyd.

“When I’m inside CHOP, I feel like I’m being watched—by the nation, by police, by the government, by history, by those we are fighting for. The whittling away of Floyd’s other features, leaving just his eyes, seems to underscore that idea: Floyd is present, here, watching over us.”

Inter/National News

Last Friday, many around the nation commemorated Juneteenth; the holiday is now officially observed at SAM. Here’s a quick listen from 2017 of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson on why she thinks it should be an official national holiday.

Peruse these Artnet editors’ picks for virtual art events to attend this week.

The New York Times presents “Sources of Self-Regard,” self-portraits by Black photographers with an accompanying essay by Deborah Willis.

“As I look at these images, I can envision how the photographers shifted their focus to construct new works or culled their own archives to revisit ideas — seeking answers to their own questions about one’s sense of self and responsibility during this unspeakable time.”

And Finally

Drive-in movie theaters to visit this summer.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider