Following a series of progressive steps taken in recent weeks, SAM
announced last Thursday that it has
temporarily closed through the end of March, to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and
protect the community.
While the museum is closed, we hope you’ll enjoy Gayle Clemans’ lovely review of John Akomfrah: Future History, which notes that
even with the closure, “the artist and his work, nonetheless, is well worth
“For Akomfrah, that
cinematic approach is like philosophy, a way of comprehending the world. ‘As
opposites have conversations, or as they are persuaded to at least potentially
sit at the table in preparation for conversation, something miraculous
happens,’ he says. ‘Life itself happens.’”
– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations
Image: Alfred Stieglitz, American, 1864–1946, Georgia O’Keeffe (in a chemise), 1918, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 2006.6.1432, photo: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe / Art Resource, NY
“It’s obviously a
really exciting thing,” said Barbara Brotherton, a curator of Native American
art at the Seattle Art Museum, of the recent exposure. The museum has a long
track record of showing Native American art ranging from historical to
contemporary periods. “We’re just in this modern moment where it’s gaining
cachet from venues like art fairs, contemporary galleries, and biennials.”
announced this week that it
is under new ownership, having been acquired by startup entrepreneur
and Geekwire chairman Jonathan Sposato.
“A Place for Meaningful Cultural Conversations” declared the headline
for art critic Lee Lawrence’s thoughtful
review of the reimagined Asian Art Museum,
which appeared in the February 25 print edition of the Wall Street Journal.
bululs, or rice deities, from the Philippines once watched over terraced
paddies, and they’re among the museum’s most modest yet most powerful works.
Given the nature and small size of its Philippine holdings, the Seattle Asian
Art Museum probably would have kept them in storage had it opted for a
traditional installation. But in another benefit of thematic groupings,
they—and other long-warehoused treasures in the museum’s collection—now have a
role, enriching the new installation not just with their stories but with their
Susie J. Lee is making a short video about what makes a museum “interesting and
cool.” The Seattle Times’ Alan Berner captured
photos of the recent shoot at the Asian Art Museum.
“As a trained
anthropologist, Hurston traveled down the East Coast and sat on stoops and
corners, the storytelling stages and communal gathering spaces of Black
communities, where, with academic rigor and a loving gaze, she listened,
studied and collected the stories Black folk tell.”
Holland Cotter of the
New York Times on
MoMA’s Donald Judd survey that opens on Sunday, noting that his work
“can now be seen to offer pleasures, visual and conceptual, that any audience
with open eyes, can relate to.”
“It is not often a
new category of art historical research is proposed as a solution to these
persistent problems, but The
Allure of Matter: Material Art from China makes a compelling case for the
usefulness of a new analytical structure around Chinese art.”
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.
“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.”
“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
With a heavy heart, we share the news of the passing of Virginia Wright, a pillar of the SAM family. Virginia and her late husband Bagley played pivotal roles in the development, vibrancy, and accomplishments of the Seattle Art Museum for more than half a century. Beyond being generous contributors, the Wrights’ greatest impact on SAM is seen in the art of the collection and in the art shown. Virginia was among a very small group of people who, in the 1960s, pushed SAM to create its first modern and contemporary art program. Virginia and Bagley also contributed to the purchase of many important acquisitions over the years. Above all else, the Wrights amassed one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in the world (over 200 works), all purchased with SAM in mind as the collection’s eventual home. When the bulk of it came to SAM in 2014, forming the backbone of its modern and contemporary collection, SAM was transformed from a great institution into a truly remarkable one.
Earlier this month,
Virginia said, “When I think about the future of the Wright Collection at SAM, I
put my trust in the artists. I trust that future generations will value their
work, that SAM will continue to provide meaningful access to it, and that the
conversations that their work has inspired will continue.” We are honored by
her faith in Seattle’s museum and, because of her support over the last 60
years, we are confident that we can live up to the legacy she established.
Born in Seattle and raised
in British Columbia, Virginia went East for college and majored in art history.
Out of college, she worked for Sidney Janis Gallery in Manhattan and began
collecting art. Mark Rothko’s abstract painting Number 10 (1952) was one
of her early, daring purchases and it is now part of SAM’s collection.
Virginia has been a SAM
member since 1951. She began docent training in 1957 and led her first public
tour in 1959. In 1959, the Wrights made their first-ever gift to SAM’s
collection: Room with White Table (1953) by William Ward Corley. That
year they also provided funding for SAM to acquire Winter’s Leaves of the
Winter of 1944 (at the time titled Leaves Before Autumn Wind) by
In 1964, she and a group of friends persuaded then-director Richard Fuller to let her start the Contemporary Art Council (CAC), a group of collectors at the museum. For the next decade, it functioned as the museum’s first modern art department. The CAC sponsored lectures and supported the first exhibitions of Op art and conceptual art in Seattle. It also brought the popular Andy Warhol Portraits exhibition to Seattle in 1976, among many other important exhibitions. Her role in bringing great art to the Seattle Art Museum also involved the curation of two solo exhibitions for Morris Louis (in 1967) and William Ivey (in 1975).
Virginia joined SAM’s board in 1960, making 2020 her 60th anniversary with the Seattle Art Museum. She temporarily stepped away in 1972 when her husband Bagley joined the Board and rejoined in 1982. She served as President of the Board from 1987–90. Virginia was President of SAM’s Board of Trustees from 1986–1992, years that coincided with the construction and opening of the downtown Robert Venturi building in 1991—the museum’s first major transformation since its opening in 1933 and a major shift in Seattle’s cultural life to downtown First Avenue (with the Symphony soon following).
In 1999, SAM mounted an
exhibition of the Wright Collection (The Virginia and Bagley Wright
Collection of Modern Art, March 4–May 9, 1999). The Wrights’ entire art
collection—the largest single collection of modern and contemporary art in the
region—has been gradually donated (and the balance of the collection promised)
to the Seattle Art Museum. A significant portion of the collection came to the
museum in 2014 when the Wrights’ private exhibition space closed.
When the Seattle Art Museum opened the Olympic Sculpture Park in 2007, many works from the Wrights’ collection were installed there, including Mark di Suvero’s Bunyon’s Chess (1965) and Schubert Sonata (1992), as well as works by Ellsworth Kelly, Tony Smith, Anthony Caro, and Roxy Paine.
SAM’s ongoing exhibition Big Picture: Art After 1945draws from the Wrights’ transformative gift of over 100 works and is a reminder of their incredible generosity.
Virginia was an active board member up to the end of her life, regularly attending meetings and advising the museum in many important endeavors. About SAM Virginia said, “It’s always been the main arena. I never wanted to break off and start a museum. I wanted to push the museum we already had into being more responsive to contemporary art.” And SAM would like to acknowledge that she did just that, leaving an undeniable mark on the cultural landscape of the entire Pacific Northwest.
As Amada Cruz, SAM’s
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, says, “Even having only been in
Seattle for a short time, it’s clear that Virginia Wright’s impact on the city
and on SAM is beyond measure. Her legacy, and that of her late husband Bagley,
is seen in both the very walls and on the walls of the downtown museum, and it
fills the Olympic Sculpture Park’s landscapes. I’m honored to have been able to
know her and of her hopes for SAM’s continued future.”
“And given Seattle’s complicated history of changing attitudes
toward immigrants and visitors from the rest of the Pacific Rim, Foong [Ping,
curator of Asian art] notes, ‘It’s very meaningful to have an Asian art museum
in this city.’”
This week’s edition of Real Change features the Asian Art Museum, with this story
from Kelly Knickerbocker.
“With the renovated
building came an opportunity to start completely from scratch,” Foong said.
“People kept asking, ‘Did you just go on holiday when the museum closed?’ It’s
quite the opposite.”
The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig often takes a look at what’s “Currently
she is on Faig Ahmed’s Oiling, which is now on view in Be/longing:
Contemporary Asian Art.
The New York Times’
Elizabeth A. Harris reports on repercussions from the coronavirus hitting
the art world.
Artnet’s Katie White from
the frontlines of “bro-ramics”; apparently, Hollywood dudes are
really into making ceramics? Of course, it’s a medium that has been dominated
by women for centuries.
“The popularity may
wax and wane, but I don’t think we’ll return to anything like the material biases
that existed in the late 20th century…and Seth Rogen will turn to underwater
Seattle Asian Art Museum is officially reopen! Thank you to the thousands
of people who streamed through the reimagined galleries at the free
housewarming event last weekend. The museum starts regular hours on Wednesday,
“I felt freed, well, just to look”: Stefan Milne examines Boundless at the Asian Art Museum and The American War at ARTS at King Street Station, which both “explore how we see Asia.”
Seattle Refined shot a recent episode from the museum, including a fantastic segment
with SAM curators Foong Ping and Xiaojin Wu (starts at :40).
“Your eyes and mind
enter them easily and roam through the different layers of brushwork and narrative
suggestion. There’s an unexpected optimism to all this. The paintings also
dwell in silence, slow us down and hypnotize.”
The Seattle Asian
Art Museum reopens to the public this weekend with a free two-day celebration.
10,000 free tickets for the housewarming event have been claimed, but the
museum reopens with regular hours on Wednesday, February 12.
questions we’re asking for this reopening are, ‘Where is Asia? What is Asia?’”
says Xiaojin Wu, the curator of Japanese and Korean art at the museum. “We’re
showing how the borders are fluid throughout history.” –From The Art Newspaper
“When the Asian Art
Museum opens on Saturday, the architects hope that previous visitors will see
their museum in a new light. Says Amada Cruz, CEO and director of the Seattle
Art Museum, ‘We could not be more excited to open the doors of the museum and
welcome everyone back.’” –Elizabeth Fazzare, Architectural Digest
“With so much to
see and contemplate in the Seattle Asian Art Museum, there needed to be space
to let the mind wander into a void for a bit. The experience would not be
complete without it. The curators and architects all should be commended for
seeing through a new vision that will expand audience’s awareness of Asia, but
also remind them that the human pursuit of beauty and the sublime is, indeed,
timeless and boundless.” –T.s. Flock, Vanguard
“With works that
emphasized the immaterial, or the breakdown of matter, the exhibition begged
the question: how applicable is the term Material Art? It seems that at this
early stage, the label may conjure more questions than answers.”
“The concept of
their endeavor . . . is simple: Put together one show a year with a kickass
lineup, pay the performers royally, preach the gospel that working artists
deserve a fair wage, have a damn good time and repeat.”
“After a long pause
a nine-year-old said: ‘Objects have rights.’ The phrase has stuck. It captures
both the need to conserve objects and to consider them as active participants
in the museum experience.”