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SAM Art: Enter the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year, and best wishes for the Year of the Horse, from all of us at SAM!

Shadow puppet of a horse, 20th century, Chinese, donkey skin and paint, height 18 in., Gift of Wellwood E. Beall, 48.85.10. Not currently on view, but viewable online.

SAM Art: Rare and beautiful, and new to SAM

Porcelain, such as this centerpiece, embodied the essence of taste for Europeans of the mid-eighteenth century. At that time, porcelain was costly and a European formula had only recently been attained through scientific and technological struggle. Using the recently devised formula, the white translucent ceramic could be molded or cast in wonderful, light, airy, sculptural forms—such as this basket-shaped bowl supported by a swirl of foliage and cavorting, fanciful putti.

Only two other examples of this form are known; both are in England. Previously unrecorded, this rarest, most beautiful piece of Bow porcelain was recently acquired by SAM. It will be installed in the Porcelain Room this spring.

Centerpiece, 1750, Bow Porcelain Manufactory, London, England, soft-paste porcelain, 7 × 9 ½ in., Kenneth and Priscilla Klepser Fund, 2013.15. On view in spring 2014, Seattle Art Museum, fourth floor, Porcelain Room.

SAM Art: More than a mere rabbit

Masks have work to do, coming alive to interact with people in forceful ways. They can sing songs, ease pain, encourage laughter, and honor elders. A new installation in the African galleries brings together masks that align human desires with animal characters.  Including several recent acquisition, these masks align human desires with animal characters. Birds, antelopes, bush cows, a hyena and a rabbit are ready to greet you on your next visit to the museum.

Rabbit mask, 20th century, Bwa/Bobo culture, Burkina Faso, wood, 18 in. height, Gift of Dr. Oliver E. and Pamela F. Cobb, 2012.29.11. Currently on view in the African art galleries, fourth floor, Seattle Art Museum.

SAM Art: The DNA of Japanese Design

Plants and animals of exceeding beauty and technical intricacy appear throughout Japanese design. The natural world is deeply rooted in the DNA of Japanese design, and is transmitted down through generations. Over the past few centuries, artists have begun reimagining traditional subjects in modern forms.

Nature and Pattern in Japanese Design, a new installation of Japanese art, celebrates the motifs of the natural world in folding screens, fan paintings, hanging scrolls, ceramics and lacquerware from SAM’s collection. On view at the Seattle Art Museum starting December 21.

Asagao no tane (Vine with Morningglory Seed Pods), 19th century, Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807 – 1891), lacquer and color on paper, 6 13/16 x 19 3/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 61.80.1. On view in Nature and Pattern in Japanese Design, Asian art galleries (new!), third floor, SAM Downtown, opening Saturday, 21 December.

SAM Art: Going for Gold is shimmering away

Gold has been a shimmering presence in art across cultures and time. When the first metals were unearthed by humans around 5000 b.c., gold was valued for its rarity and lustrous color. Today, gold is prized as both investment and adornment, with fifty percent of the world’s consumption of this rare substance being made into jewelry. The rarest of all metals, gold has unique properties. It is chemically inert so it remains stable and does not oxidize or degrade, even if buried in a tomb or sunken in a shipwreck. Gold is also dense—a cubic foot weighs half a ton—but is so malleable that it can be stretched into threads to be woven into textiles or hammered into thin sheets to be applied as gilding.

The dazzling art on view in Going for Gold offers a rare opportunity to appreciate gold in all its beguiling aspects. This exhibition closes on Sunday, 8 December.

Portable shrine: Bodhisattva Kokuzo, 19th century, Japanese (Edo period, 1603-1868), wood with gold and black lacquer, polychrome, and metal fittings, Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 34.183. On view in Going for Gold, third floor, SAM downtown, through Sunday, 8 December.

SAM Art: A new exhibition, a new type of innovation

Canadian Haida artist Robert Davidson is on a lifelong quest for innovation, which he sees as a continuation of the spirit of originality present in the work of generations of Haida artists.

In 1977, the efforts of Davidson and other artists in elevating the status and quality of silkscreen prints as an artistic, rather than touristic, medium resulted in the formation of the Northwest Coast Indian Artists Guild. Experimenting with larger scale and bold graphics, Davidson was inspired to new originality. In Reflections, the black expanse serves to heighten the precision of line, texture and color.

Reflections is included in the new exhibition Robert Davidson: Abstract Impulse, opening this Saturday, 16 November.

Reflections, 1977, Robert Davidson (Canadian, Haida, born 1946), ink on paper, 16 15/16 x 7 3/4 in., Seattle Art Museum, gift of Marshall and Helen Hatch, 2013.19.2, © Robert Davidson. On view starting Saturday, 16 November, in Robert Davidson: Abstract Impulse, third floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: Last chance to see an heroic guardian

A heroic guardian, this figure was strategically placed precisely at the water line of a decorated canoe’s prow in the Solomon Islands. Dipping into the water as the large canoe navigated the seas, it kept watch for hidden reefs and enemies. Shell inlay swirls over the face in a pattern like those found on the painted faces of warriors. Beneath the chin of this figure is a head that is being clutched—although whether the warrior is protecting it or presenting it as a fallen enemy is unknown.

Oceanic art is on view at the Seattle Art Museum through Sunday, December 8.

Canoe prow figure (Nguzu Nguzu), 19th century, Solomon Islands, Melanesian, wood, nautilus shell, 10 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 5 in., Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.1443.

SAM Art: More than just beauty

“It is not a reportage but a reconstruction….”
-Fabrice Monteiro, on his Signares series

How much force does a camera hold? Africa is a continent known for photo “ops”–as seen in post cards, historic portraits and journalism for 200 years. Looking back, this opportunism has also created a backlog of stereotypes and misunderstandings. Contemporary African artists are now shifting the use of this medium. Belgian-Beninese artist Fabrice Monteiro works with Senegalese women to create his images evoking “Signares,” the legendary women who matched beauty with business acumen, and played a surprising role in the Atlantic slave trade. His photographs capture his models in the guise of these elegant and charming women of the past.

Join curator Pam McClusky for “Take Me: Photography by and about Africans,” the first installment of this year’s Members Lecture Series: Curator’s Choice.

October 23, 2013
7–8:30 pm
Plestcheeff Auditorium, first floor, SAM downtown

Signare #1, île de Gorée, 2011, Fabrice Monteiro (Beninese-Belgian, works in Senegal, born 1972), archival digital print, 47 ¼ x 31 ½ in., Gift of the African Art Council and African Art Acquisition Fund, 2013.14, © Fabrice Monteiro. Not currently on view.

SAM Art: An incredible collection, one more time

One of the great American collections of Minimal and Conceptual art was built by New Yorkers Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. What makes their story so inspiring is that they were able to accomplish this on their modest salaries—Dorothy a librarian and Herbert a postal service employee. The couple had no formal training in art or art history but found themselves drawn to art, frequenting galleries and befriending artists over four decades. They followed Minimal art with particular interest.

In addition to giving more than 1000 works of art to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Vogels distributed fifty works from their collection to one museum in each of the fifty states of the United States. The Seattle Art Museum is honored to be the recipient in the State of Washington.

The Vogel collection remains on view at the Seattle Art Museum until Sunday, 27 October.