Conversation with the Collector: Living with Mobiles

Do you collect art? Why do you do it? While conversations could go around and around about potential investment value, etc., most who collect do so because they have encountered something that moves them in a way that nothing else can. And living with original works of art for which you feel such attachment enriches every day of your life.

I’ve heard Jon Shirley speak of his first encounter with the work of Alexander Calder. He was drawn to the sculptor’s work at a very young age. It was many years before he would purchase his first Calder piece, but since that first encounter he and his wife Mary have built one of the greatest collections of Calder’s works in existence and have learned a great deal about the artist’s work. (For instance, did you know that no two Calder mobiles are exactly alike?)

What happens when passion becomes a collection? What is it like to live with a house full of Calder sculptures?

 

You only have five more days to feel the glow of these spectacular works. Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act is gone after April 11.

– Nicole Chism Griffin, Associate Manager of PR at SAM

Hammering Man: Surgery is Underway

Hammering Man went into surgery without incident this morning. The docs are hard at work , performing the delicate operation to reattach his errant arm. Despite the wind, prognosis is good, and it seems he may be re-armed and back in the swing by later this afternoon. We’ll be here in the waiting room (AKA, the SAM development department windows), and will keep you all posted on the Man’s progress.

Meanwhile, we’re completely out of fresh puns for this one and could use your help. Let us know what you can come up with.

-Nicole Chism Griffin, Associate Manager of PR at SAM

Conversation with the Collector: World War II and Calder

During World War II, Americans at home were left to negotiate and adjust their lifestyle to food rations and other sacrifices – including the conservation and recycling of metal for the war effort.

What did this mean for Alexander Calder, an artist whose groundbreaking works were based on sheet metal and metal wire?

During the war, it meant experimentation with other materials such as wood. (You can see this playful Hen from 1943 in Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act for only 7 more days!)

Once the war was over, it meant the opening of a floodgate of creativity and one of the most productive periods of the artist’s career.

– Nicole Chism Griffin, Associate Manager of PR at SAM

Olympic Sculpture Park and Kids

Today’s New York Times article by William Yardley highlighted the sculpture park’s no touching of art policy as an example of how Seattle is struggling to  become kid-friendly as the population of children here grows. As a mother of two extremely active and curious little girls, I can honestly say that my kids love playing at the Olympic Sculpture Park.  I am admittedly a little biased because I work for the museum but the park has a special sense of place that I know kids can sense.

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It’s Free First Thursday!

Any day is a good day to visit a museum, but on this Free First Thursday we’re making it pretty hard NOT to pay us a visit:

Come join the fun!

Mauses und Dancers und Crowds, Oh, my! (Katharina Fritsch, Mann und Maus, 1991-92, Polyester resin and paint, 90 1/2 x 51 1/2 x 94 1/2 in. Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum.

Mauses und Dancers und Crowds, Oh, my! (Katharina Fritsch, Mann und Maus, 1991-92, Polyester resin and paint, 90 1/2 x 51 1/2 x 94 1/2 in. Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum.

-Nicole Chism Griffin, SAM PR

First Thursday enthusiasts surrounding/surrounded by Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune: Stage One (Cai Guo-Qiang, Inopportune: Stage One, 2004, Cars and sequenced multi-channel light tubes, each car: 16 x 6 ft. © Cai Guo-Qiang)

 

Buddhism and Human Rights–Is This a Conflict?

We have heard more details recently about the ongoing war in isolated Burma [Myanmar]–especially this week in Seattle. Human rights reporter Mac McClelland was here, talking about her experiences living in Thailand by the Burmese border, an area swollen with refugee camps. She lived with Burmese dissidents, members of one of the ethnic groups targeted by Burmese government genocide, who risk their lives regularly by secretly crossing into Burma to document atrocities of the government’s ethnic-cleansing campaign.

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Conversation with the Collector: Tiny Works By Alexander Calder

It’s amazing how many visitors to Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act have been drawn to the cases of tiny little sculptures, which seem to mirror what Calder was doing in a larger scale. At first glance, many think that these must be studies or models for later, larger works. It would be easy to picture them recreated in a giant mobile or big outdoor sculpture, but they are actually unique works of art in the own right.

Calder often played with variations on certain themes – such as red tripod bases with arcing cantilevers on top – in a range of sizes and media. It’s fun to look closely at these tiny Calders, as you can often discern the actual hand-pounding and forming of metal and the strokes of the master artist’s paintbrushes.

In this video, collector Jon Shirley talks a little more about these surprising pieces.

 

– Nicole Chism Griffin, SAM PR

Conversation with the Collector: Alexander Calder

“I think all Calders tend to make someone happy. That is the universal appeal of his art.” – Jon Shirley

Click on the video link below to hear more from Jon Shirley about the only adjustable Calder mobile ever made and what it’s like to live with Red Curly Tail (which has endured a snowball fight or two). 

Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act closes on April 11th. 

-Cara Egan, SAM PR

Take Pictures at SAM – You Spoke, SAM Listened

Photography inside a museum’s art galleries can be a touchy touchy issue. From conservation (yes, repeated “flashing” does damage art over time) to super serious legal matters (most 20th and 21st century art is under copyright by an artist or an estate), the issues surrounding the seemingly simple act of taking a picture are complex and abundant.

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SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: March

When I first heard about the blog, I was excited to have another avenue to connect our libraries with the public. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard visitors say, “Wow, I have been to the museum so many times, but never knew there was a library downstairs. It’s amazing! Look at all these books!” when they visit the McCaw Foundation Library at the Seattle Asian Art Museum for the first time. The library has been here as long as they museum has – more than seventy-seven years. I am excited to have this opportunity to showcase some of the marvelous books we have in this library.

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Hidden Gems

In a collection of nearly 25,000 objects, it’s easy to overlook a hidden gem. While reading an art blog , I came across a link to a photographic portrait of George Washington, carved in snow  (I’m not joking).  Amazing, but something you might not look twice at in a gallery, or even in a database. Sometimes it takes a spotlight to recognize the brilliance, humor, history, subtlety, or whimsy in this collection. I asked some of my colleagues to share their favorite overlooked, underappreciated object—these are the objects that they wish you, the visitor, knew all about.

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SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club: February

Black History Month
This month’s Book(s) of the Month Club entry highlights some of the more recent library acquisitions related to African American art production and African Americans as the subject in art. February is Black History Month and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to highlight some our great resources in these areas.

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Derrick Cartwright Talks Football

It’s Art Museum Directors gone wild as Max Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and E. John Bullard, director of the New Orleans Museum of Art, break out the art historical smack talk, wagering art-against-art in the race for Super Bowl XLIV.

Tyler Green’s coverage of the heated negotiations is a must-read. But what does SAM’s own director, Derrick Cartwright, have to say about his esteemed colleagues, Super Bowl XLIV and the Seahawks? The Seattle Weekly’s Caleb Hannan asked the same question.

Nicole Chism Griffin, Associate Manager of Public Relations, SAM

SAM’s Shrinking Carbon Footprint

As the Environmental Coordinator who has stepped into place here at SAM after our Environmental Steward recently, Jackie White moved on, I am pleased to report that SAM has reduced its carbon emissions by 30% between 2008 and 2009. This is an amazing achievement! I’d have to say the credit goes not only to the SAM Goes Green Program but all of the staff at the museum as well as the volunteers, members, and visitors.

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The History in Art History, Part II: How This Painting Came to Seattle!

Recently I blogged about the scant history of the museum’s magnificent painting by Frederic Church, entitled A Country Home, which was a gift to the museum in 1965 from one Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael.  For five years I’ve been wanting to learn more about Mrs. Carmichael and how she came to Seattle and how she came to bring with her her great grandfather’s impressive picture by Church. I’ve been surprisingly lucky in research so many times that I’m now convinced that some strange forces guide our hands as we delve into the past—forces that make sure that lives are never forgotten. The forces directed me to Mrs. Carmichael just last week.

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826-1900), A Country Home, 1854; oil on canvas 32 x 51 in. Gift of Mrs. Paul C. Carmichael, 65.80

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Notes from the Electronic Frontline

As one of the webmasters at SAM I am witness to all sorts of emails—from basic visitor inquiries to requests to send a SAM representative to judge girls on their inner beauty at pageants. These emails have taught me a lot about human communication and the human tendency to only provide feedback when they have something negative to say. In this day and age of faceless electronic communication, more often than not, this means people feel that they can be informal, not use spell check or punctuation and in some instances, be as rude as they want.  The following emails have been reproduced as written, with errors and misspellings left uncorrected.

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SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club

When I was first asked to write something for this blog, I immediately thought about our incredible library collections and my desire to highlight at least some of the interesting resources we have.

The “book of the month” idea also came to mind. Dependent upon your age and where you grew up, you might have been a subscriber to the Book of the Month Club ©, a book-by-mail service begun in 1926. My mother, an elementary school teacher, signed me up for the Children’s Book of the Month Club ™ as soon as I could read. I’d like to take a page from the BOMC’s playbook and feature a book or books from our library collections each month on this blog. We don’t have mail-order services, but our libraries are all open to the public for reference use. Our hours and other information are available here.

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Michelangelo Wednesdays

A couple of weeks ago I gave a tour in the “Michelangelo Wednesdays” series. (Quick overview: SAM curators—including myself, the curatorial lead for Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art—give a short tour of the Michelangelo exhibition every Wednesday afternoon.) I am not a Renaissance scholar, though I do have a soft spot for Florentine art. Would I fake my way through the show, using the knowledge and vocabulary gleaned from the amazing Professor Evelyn Lincoln in my Renaissance art classes in college? Would I simply do an overview of the show, basically taken straight from the catalogue and Chiyo Ishikawa’s overviews? Maybe I would just take people around and point them toward my favorite stops in Gary Radke’s charismatic audio tour? What, oh what, was I going to do?

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What it takes

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to put a work of art on view.  To our visitors, it should seem oh-so-easy: You see painting A (something you love) one day, and on your next visit it’s replaced with painting B (something you love even more). But behind the scenes, it’s anything but. As you relax and take in the holidays, here’s a little piece of our frenetic world to consider. (And as a little holiday bonus from me to you, all images are from 1983—enjoy!)

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Heide Hinrichs: borrowed tails

Heide Hinrichs is the fourth artist in our SAM Next series, a contemporary art exhibition program at the museum. Borrowed tails, which opened in November, is a body of work the artist developed specifically for this installation, making it the first time these drawings and sculptures are presented to the public. While she was at the museum installing her show we had the opportunity to talk to her about her work.

 

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New Old & New New

I have a meeting today at the Seattle Asian Art Museum to discuss the Getty Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative. While I am there I plan to check out the New Old and the New New. A pair of installations featuring new acquisitions, it opened last Sunday, Dec. 12.

The New Old: Recent Acquisitions of Chinese Painting features 15 works of art produced between 1629-2009, many of which were recently donated to the museum in honor of director emerita Mimi Gates.  This installation also features key works by 17th century painter Bada Shanren (1626–1705) as explained in this video excerpt from last week’s members art history lecture by SAM’s Chinese Art Curator, Josh Yiu.

 The focus of New New: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Asian Art is to introduce visitors to the work of 17 artists that have come into the SAM collection since 2002. They represent China, Japan, Korea, Canada and the United States.

Christina DePaolo
New Media Manager

Behind the Scenes: The SAM Remix Tattoo Parlor

“Behind the scenes” responsibilities at an arts organization are not always the most glamorous work. In Public Programming at SAM, back-end work includes contracts, stage set-up, power point preparation, and many late-nights, among other things.  The latest of my nights, but also one of the most exciting to work on, is the quarterly SAM Remix program.  During Remix, my department has the opportunity to program the entire building in an effort to create a unique experience that engages audiences with the art on view through a more interdisciplinary and interactive approach.

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Paul Macapia – in memoriam

Paul Macapia
1934-2009
Long-time museum photographer and a great Northwest artist, Paul will be missed by all who had the pleasure to work with him at SAM.

Untitled, From the Dungeness and Grey Wolf, 1972, Paul Macapia, American, 1934-2009, color photograph, 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 in., Gift of Neil Meitzler, 77.24, © Paul Macapia

 

Why a plate?

Michelangelo Public and Private invites us into the artistic process behind some of the most astonishing works of art ever created – the Sistine Chapel frescoes. Through preparatory drawings – quick figure sketches to capture a pose, analytical studies of outstretched limbs, a highly finished portrait that will be incorporated into a populous narrative – we watch Michelangelo making decisions that lead to the finished work.

It is easy to understand why these preparatory drawings – the artist’s first ideas – are at the centerpiece of the Michelangelo exhibition. But what about some of the other objects? Read More

Trip Report – Memphis, TN

Despite working in the arts, like most people I tend to find more time to really look at art when I’m separated from my day-to-day life. Not only that, though. Wherever I am, I always have trouble separating art history from my perceptions of the world. Spending time someplace unfamiliar, I find that I almost instinctively seek insight into the people and the culture there through what the locals like to look at.

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You, me, coffee, tea

Artist John Marshall on his creative process, screen shot from the SAM video

Artist John Marshall, screen shot from the SAM video

Recently, Decorative Arts curator Julie Emerson was able to commission a coffee and tea service from silversmith John Marshall for our collection. It’s a very cool process (both commissioning and making), something the Dec Arts department had never been able to do before—that collection had always focused on historic American and European material.

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