“Without the periodic conservation of these works, they simply wouldn’t exist anymore. So this work is really critical and we are conserving our collections so that they are lasting in perpetuity for generations to come.”
– Nick Dorman, SAM Chief Conservator
When the Asian Art Museum reopens, you’ll be able to stop by to learn about the conservation of Asian paintings by peeking through the public viewing window into the conservation space to see the progress! Through a $3.5M challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a new Asian Paintings Conservation Center at the Asian Art Museum is devoted to the conservation, mounting, and study of Asian paintings. The new conservation center serves the museum’s collection as well as institutional and private collections in the region. This is the first museum center of its kind in the western United States. We hope to have it completed by 2021.
If you value the ways SAM connects art to your life, consider making a donation or becoming a member today! Your financial support powers Stay Home with SAM and also sustains us until we can come together as a community and enjoy art in the galleries again.
The recent renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum allowed SAM to evaluate and conserve artworks we have previously been unable to display. One such work is the seated Buddha Shakyamuni which is on view for the first time in over a decade. Cast in the late 8th to early 9th century in Kashmir, Buddha Shakyamuni is seated in the dharmachakra mudra, a gesture that signifies the sharing of spiritual teachings. The sculpture is one of only a few examples known in Western collections. It is featured in the inaugural exhibition Boundless: Stories of Asian Art—a thematic, rather than geographic or chronological exploration of art from the Asian continent—celebrating the historic renovation of the museum’s 1933 Art Deco building located in Seattle’s Olmsted-designed Volunteer Park.
In 2009, during a condition assessment for a multi-venue international traveling exhibition, it was discovered that large white drips of zinc hydroxychloride corrosion product were seeping down the sculpture’s back. Independent conservation scientist John Twilley had identified the corrosion product in 1988 and the object was then treated for chlorides, however corrosion had reactivated in the intervening years.
Due to the severity of the problem and the importance of the sculpture, Twilley was engaged in 2009 to perform a technical study that included, among other techniques, x-radiography and metallographic study, including electron microscopy. Twilley determined that the metal contains 34-39% zinc, which is an extraordinarily high percentage of zinc to copper even for Kashmiri production. Twilley states that “a critical technological value of 28% zinc… is believed to be the highest value normally achievable by cementation methods” (Twilley 2003: 144), in which vaporized zinc is directly absorbed by copper metal to form the alloy. This finding has great technological implications: it identified the Shakyamuni as a rare, surviving example of brass produced from the earliest actual smelting of zinc, achieved by Kashmiris approximately 1,000 years before Western Europe.
However, the sculpture’s stability is inherently compromised as a result: the presence of two phases (or different crystal microstructures of copper and zinc) in the alloy creates the potential for galvanic corrosion in the presence of chloride contamination and moisture. Above 5% relative humidity, moisture penetrates the alloy’s higher zinc component causing dissolved corrosion products to migrate through the sculpture’s porous casting network.
Conservation treatment options are limited. Chemical treatments can control chloride corrosion in copper alloys, and were tested for this sculpture and previously performed locally, but the high zinc level of Buddha Shakyamuni renders the figure particularly susceptible. Immersion of the sculpture is impractical due to the surface ornamentation and extant casting core. Therefore, controlling the environment in which the sculpture is stored and displayed remains the preferred preservation approach.
For the last decade, the sculpture has been successfully stabilized by storage at <5% relative humidity; a micro environment was fashioned from a glass bell jar packed with oxygen scavenger and silica gel, sealed to a plywood board (covered with aluminized polyethylene and nylon barrier film) on which the sculpture is mounted.
Construction of a low-oxygen, low-humidity case was required to enable display and to ensure its survival in long-term storage, as even a controlled museum environment provides ample moisture for the corrosion process to occur. A glass vitrine, rather than acrylic, was necessary to minimize the rate of air exchange. The sealed display enclosure is composed of inert materials including the 5-sided 8.8mm UltraVue laminated glass vitrine, powder-coated aluminum deck, and ample conditioning chamber located below. The case is intended to passively maintain a relative humidity below 5%, however two ports in the sub-deck are designed for dry nitrogen flushing if necessary. A glass and gasket access door in the sub-deck enables live-view of the temperature and humidity loggers inside the display area, and enables periodic replacement of the silica gel, oxygen scavenger, and temperature/relative humidity sensors.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum is thrilled for the opportunity to display the Buddha Shakyamuni, and to share both its innovative creation story and present-day preservation plan with the public. If you value the ways SAM connects art to your life, consider making a donation or becoming a member today!
This project would not have been possible without the leadership of Nicholas Dorman, Head of Conservation at the Seattle Art Museum; Mike Dunphy, Sales and Marketing Manager at SmallCorp; John Twilley, Independent Conservation Scientist; and Yadin Larochette, Museum and Conservation Liaison- Americas, Tru Vue, Inc.
SAM’s locations may be temporarily closed, but our curators are still here to connect you to art! Here’s Dr. Theresa Papanikolas, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art, to give you an overview of Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations. This installation featuring 17 works by this American master opened just one week before we had to make the difficult decision to close for the safety of our community. Tune in for a lecture developed just for you and learn more about the works on view at SAM. We can still appreciate these artworks and the artist who made them, even if can’t visit them at the moment.
Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations features 17 works from the 1910s to the 1930s. At the heart of the installation is Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1, a recent addition to SAM’s collection and a gift of late Trustee Barney A. Ebsworth. The first complete expression of O’Keeffe’s personal brand of modernism, Abstract Variations brings Music, Pink and Blue, No. 1 together with Music, Pink and Blue, No. 2, from the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, for the first time in Seattle, along with loans from museums across the country.
Now that the Asian Art Museum has expanded, we can fit this monumental sculpture by Do Ho Suh inside the galleries! Some/One is part of Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art and while the Asian Art Museum is temporarily closed we are taking you behind the scenes of installing this impressive and important artwork.
Some/One, 2001, represents artist Do Ho Suh’s interest in individual and collective identity. A minimalist sculpture, Do Ho Suh explores how art transforms public and private spaces through a painstaking amount of intricate detail that is not always apparent at first sight but is an integral part of the artwork. Some/One, as the title of the work indicates, juxtaposes the collective—represented by a larger-than-life armor sculpture—and the individual, consisting of life-size shiny-metal dog tags, each unique and representing a single soldier. This allegory is carried forward by contrasting the hard, insensitive character of armor with the delicate aspect of the dog tags, which are made up of thin sheets of metal and embody the poetic symbolism of fallen warriors.
While the Asian Art Museum was closed for renovation and expansion we reimagined the presentation of art to include community perspectives on art works. Below is a reflection on Some/One from artist HollyAnna CougarTracks DeCoteau Littlebull. You might remember her large-scale artwork on view at Arts at King Street Station as part of yəhaw̓. Check out some photos of Bigfoot, the artwork referenced in her statement.
The one thing that people of all races have in common is we have our protectors. My Crow family recognizes me as a warrior, because I used to be a police officer and got shot in the line of duty, and survived. We use either elk hide or buffalo to dress our warriors, which takes on a similar shape, and sometimes paint the rawhide side with the story of that veteran. It’s a way of them owning their story and being able to wear it with pride, but it also has the sad side to it too: the death, the destruction, the pain. With my contemporary artwork, Bigfoot, there are plastic toy natives next to the head, there’s one with the war bonnet on, and he’s representing the warriors in my family. It’s about dealing with the past, with assimilation, with boarding schools, with genocide. Bigfoot talks about the foundation and accepting your past even if it’s ugly. That’s what this artwork does here too. War is not pretty.
– HollyAnna CougarTracks DeCoteau Littlebull, artist
We also include community voices on the free smartphone tour featuring artworks from SAM’s Asian art collection. Listen to musician Deems Tsutakawa discuss this artwork and how he relates to it in his own life.
We worked to represent a variety of voices in presenting Do Ho Suh’s Some/One because the sculpture is about both the individual and collective identities. One of these voices belongs to the artist. In an interview with Art21, artist Do Ho Suh talks about the dream that inspired Some/One.
“I saw this light in the stadium, and so I thought there’s some kind of activity going on. And as I approached the stadium… I walked slowly and went into the stadium on the ground level, and then I see this reflecting surface in the dream. And I realized I was stepping on these metal pieces that were the military dog tags. And it was slightly vibrating; the dog tags were touching each other, and the sound was from that. And from afar, I saw the central figure in the center of the stadium. I slowly proceeded to the center, and then I realized it was all one piece that gradually rose up and formed this one figure…. So, that was the dream and the image that I got. After that, I made a small drawing. The small drawing was about this vast field of military dog tags on the ground and then a small figure in the center…. That was the impact that I wanted to somehow convey through that piece.”
– Do Ho Suh, artist
We are humbled by the generosity of our donors during this unique time. Your financial support powers SAM Blogand also sustains us until we can come together as a community and enjoy art in the galleries again. Thanks to a generous group of SAM trustees, all membership and gifts to SAM Fund will be matched up to $500,000 through June 30!
Be prepared to be surprised when you are next able to visit today’s Seattle Asian Art Museum! Our curators are here to share the thinking and process behind offering a thematic, rather than geographic or chronological reinstallation of SAM’s Asian art collection.
You will no longer find galleries labeled China, Japan, or India. Instead, vibrant artworks from Vietnam to Iran, and everywhere in between, come together to tell stories of human experiences across time and place. From themes of worship and celebration to clothing and identity, nature and power to birth and death, the new collection installation reveals the complexity and diversity of Asia—a place of distinct cultures, histories, and belief systems that help shape our world today.
“The real magic of Carpe Fin is in the space between the object and the observer.”
– Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Hear from the artist behind the 6 x 19–foot watercolor mural commissioned for SAM. Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas describes Carpe Fin as “Haida manga.” This unique approach developed by Yahgulanaas blends several artistic and cultural traditions, including Haida formline art, Japanese manga, Pop Art, and graphic novels.
Inspired by a traditional Haida oral story, the story is also linked to a 19th-century headdress in SAM’s collection carved by Yahgulanaas’s relative, Albert Edward Edenshaw. Carpe Fin calls attention to issues of environmental degradation and the rupture of the values that honor human-nature interdependence.
We asked SAM staff to reflect on the work and what stood out to them by answering which panel impacted them most. Have you seen the artwork at SAM or read the book? Read some reflections below and share your thoughts with us in the comments!
The very center panel—it’s more free form so it draws the eye. It’s the moment when Carpe realizes he’s been left behind on the island. His phases of expression and gesture really struck me.
The central panels—frames break down, creative topsy-turvy!
The third panel (upper center) for the transition from the human to the underwater world. The contrast of thick, thin, and detailed brushwork make it come alive.
The middle panels stand out because of the dynamic between the sea lions and humans. There’s a chaotic structure that reminds me of the circle of life, but it also shows an imbalance.
The central panel and how it just seems to come alive and break out of the typical comic book boxes/outlines; the overall image captivates your attention and makes you want to keep looking at the intricate, smaller details.
I was most impacted by the panel in which Carpe swims back wearing sewed-up seal skin. There is something about embodying the animal that he had been killing. I wonder how much the message of “you’re killing our women” would have sunk in without this physical experience or if he would have heard it in a different way?
I’m most impacted by the panel where the young boys kill a flicker. This senseless, purposeless killing of a living thing in a microcosm of the imbalance and lack of respect for the environment that has created dire circumstances for this community and communities across the globe. The energy that youth are bringing to climate activism lies in contrast to this detail and gives hope for the future. We all need to take responsibility and enact laws and regulations that will ensure the survival of future generations.
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
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.”
This past summer, 10 teens from the Rainier Vista community joined Seattle Art Museum staff, Olson Kundig Architects, and Sawhorse Revolution for SAM’s one of a kind Design Your [Neighbor]hood Program. Each Design Your [Neighbor]hood program is unique, but this one was truly special because it was the first time that the youth participants got the chance to collaborate in the full design and build process. The teens worked with designers, architects, and builders to take their ideas from the visioning and planning stage, to ideation, refinement, and finally to building.
Design Your [Neighbor]hood is a hands-on program run by Seattle Art Museum that exposes youth to all facets of design, and the connection between design and community change. From architecture to graphic design, fashion, and photography, youth have the opportunity to understand the breadth of this field, meet professionals through trips and office visits, and engage in design thinking and studio processes that give first-person experience.
This year’s group of teens living in the Rainier Vista community, near Rainier Vista Neighborhood House recognized a need for a community sound booth and recording studio. With so many budding performers and musicians in the neighborhood, they were often renting spaces for recording.
The design and build process involved a number of field trips during which the teens gathered ideas and inspiration from notable architectural spaces, and met with various professionals for advice. They visited the Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill and the Olson Kundig offices in Pioneer Square. They also worked to gather input on design ideas from their peers in the community, making sure to be inclusive of all voices and needs as they finalized their design.
After multiple refinements of the process through input from Chris Landingin, project manager at Batt + Lear, and Jesse Kingsley and Chris Poules, architects at Olson Kundig, the youth got to building. Collaborating with Sawhorse Revolution, the teens learned the essentials of power tool safety and introductory carpentry skills. Between the design refinements and the building time, it took them a little over seven weeks to complete their project.
The culminating celebration featured presentations from each teen on their favorite part of the program, specific skills they picked up throughout, and how they envision the space will be used by their peers and the community. Families, friends, and community partners all got a chance to participate in the celebration on a job well done!
Thank you to our partners, Seattle Housing Authority, Delridge Neighborhood Development Association, Olson Kundig Architects, Sawhorse Revolution, Christine Landingin from Batt + Lear, and Hearst Foundations for all of their support.
– Sarah Bloom, SAM’s Associate Director of Education
When the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens next year, visitors will experience the museum’s renowned collection of Asian art in a whole new way. Most of the original galleries will showcase the museum’s collection, while the building’s new gallery—housed in the expansion—will focus on rotating special exhibitions. SAM’s curatorial team saw the renovation process as an exciting chance to rethink how visitors engage with the Asian art collection. “How often does a museum go offline and move everything out?” notes Foong Ping, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art. She continues, “This was an opportunity to dream a little bit.”
The curators convened groups of scholars and community advisors to explore approaches to displaying SAM’s artworks. Moving away from the chronological and geographic organization of most museums, they took a thematic approach instead. Each gallery of Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, the new collection installation, focuses on a theme central to Asia’s diverse arts and societies, ranging from worship and celebration, to visual arts and literature, to clothing and identity. For instance, a gallery titled Spiritual Journeys brings many objects together, from a Pakistani Bodhisattva, to an Indian Stupa, to a Chinese demon, to explore spiritual imagery through unifying ideas such as spiritual guides and guardians. The reinstallation provides an experience of great diversity and a broad context within which to engage with artworks.
Boundless also presents varied voices and perspectives on artworks to offer visitors a wide array of approaches to appreciating SAM’s collection. Along with traditional curatorial texts, artists and Seattle community members also offer their perspectives. The Color in Clay gallery presents a large selection of ceramics from China as well as vibrant works from Vietnam to Iran in a natural light-filled gallery without any contextualizing text. Monitors with more information will be available, but Foong’s hope is for visitors to be immersed in looking closely at subtle differences in tones and textures in the clay and the glazes. “I’m particularly excited about this display because it represents a completely different experience than we’ve ever had at the Asian Art Museum,” she says.
The first special exhibition Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art also draws primarily from the museum’s collection. It brings together works by 12 artists born in different parts of Asia—Azerbaijan, Iran, India, Thailand, China, Korea, and Japan—who have all lived outside of Asia and are exploring their Asian heritage from global perspectives. Be/longing features Some/One by Do Ho Suh—a sculpture so large that we were previously unable to exhibit it at the Asian Art Museum. SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art Xiaojin Wu explains, “Some/One is an imposing work that compels the viewer to think about identity and our relationship with society—issues we all care about.” Positioning Some/One alongside works by other contemporary artists, visitors will encounter its powerful resonance in a new exhibition, a new gallery, a new building, in the new year.
SAM Gallery artist Kellie Talbot travels across the country with her husband, cat, and duck, in a truck pulling her mobile studio, an Airstream trailer they named Mr. Salsa. Kellie Talbot’s America on view at SAM Gallery September 4–29, showcases some of her newest works. Talbot has established a national reputation for her oil paintings of the neon signs scattered across America. In the last two years, her family has driven 36,000 miles, through 29 states, in pursuit of source material for her paintings. She plans her route, knowing where certain signs are located, but is always open to possibilities and unexpected opportunities. Some of her favorite signs and memories come from happening upon them. One unexpected ice storm led them to Vaughn, NM (population 446), where Talbot found one neon sign after another. She was out in the snow, climbing on her Airstream trailer to get photographs for future paintings. When she’s traveling the country, Talbot says “I photograph almost every sign I come across because when I am in collecting mode I don’t want to pass up any potential. Sometimes it’s more obvious. Some of those obvious ones have an iconic shape or beautiful neon that just demands to be painted.”
Once Talbot returns to her studio in Seattle or New Orleans, she relies on reference photos from her trip, to paint photorealist paintings of the signs that represent the landscape of American artifacts, craftsmanship, and history. Talbot describes how “once I am in my studio I spend a lot of time with my reference material planning out a body of work. I like to have a balance of close-ups mixed with landscapes. I like there to be a push and pull of sorts. Some signs are small but I paint them big while others I can enlarge just portions. Almost every sign has the potential to be painted. I just have to find the aspect of that sign I want to paint.” Talbot is often drawn to a particular letter or shadows from a sign. Focusing on a smaller portion of the sign allows the viewer to enjoy the shapes, shadows, and colors in a new way. Talbot intentionally includes the rust and decay in the neon signs she paints. These details aren’t negatives to the artist, they are signs of time and experience, both an elegy and a hope.
With construction nearing
completion at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM staff has started preparations
for the months-long move back into the historic building. As most people who
have changed residences know, moving back in can often be as challenging as
moving out. That experience will be amplified on a massive scale as the staff
begins the gargantuan task of readying the renovated museum for art and
The 10,000 collection objects that
were carefully packed, tracked, and removed from the Asian Art Museum now need
to return to the building—a process expected to require a full year, although
the museum will reopen before that process is complete. Lauren Mellon, Director
of Museum Services and Chief Registrar, explains “Moving back in will be more
complicated because we’re building the storage spaces as the art returns.”
However, the collection will be returning to many important improvements.
Mellon continues, “We will now have full climate control, and the storage
facilities will be vastly upgraded. Overall, the objects will be much happier
in their new home.”
Before works of art and museum
staff can enter the renovated building, a number of systems across the facility
will need to be tested to ensure they are operating correctly, including those
pertaining to security, mechanics, air quality, and climate control. “We must
maintain what we call a ‘critical environment’ to support the art, as well as
provide a safe and healthy environment for employees and museum visitors,”
explains Lee Richardson, Director of Facilities.
Once testing is complete, the
first works of art that will be brought inside are those to be presented in the
museum’s galleries. The preparation crew will begin working gallery by gallery,
building platforms, preparing the cases for object displays, and eventually
mounting the works of art. One of the most exciting outcomes of this work is
visitors will have the chance to experience more of the museum’s collection.
“We will no longer have to de-install the permanent collection as the special
exhibitions change. All thirteen of the museum’s original galleries will now be
dedicated to showing the collection,” says Nathan Peek, Director of Design and
The building’s many improvements are inspiring the work of museum staff across departments. As Richardson says, “While the renovation process was important to addressing safety issues, we also now have a better palette to work with for exhibiting art and engaging the public.”
SAM’s intricate and stunning sculpture of The Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi is currently on view in Body Language, but wouldn’t be if it weren’t for a years-long project that restored the piece to its former sheen. To make this possible, our conservators worked with a team at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, the original home of the sculpture. See images from the process and find out more about the conservation process from our conservators before you see this sculpture in person.
Massimiliano Soldani Benzi’s bronze sculpture The Lamentation over the Dead Christ (SAM 61.178) was cast in 1714 and acquired by SAM in 1961 as part of the Samuel Kress Collection. SAM’s Head of Conservation, Nicholas Dorman, led a multi-year fundraising campaign to study and treat the sculpture. Completed in December 2018, the project encompassed three broad goals: analysis of the surface and cleaning, replacing the lost crown, and constructing a new period-appropriate base.
The sculpture was loaned to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence in 2017, where it was featured in Making Beauty: The Ginori Porcelain Manufactory and Its Progeny of Statues. The exhibition discussed the relationship between Soldani and the Ginori Porcelain studio: after his death, Soldani’s heirs sold some of his wax models and molds to Mr. Carlo Ginori, who reproduced them in porcelain at his Florentine workshop. The bronze Lamentation over the Dead Christ was displayed next to its porcelain cousin for the first time, both having been cast from the same approximately 56 molds.
The Bargello exhibition was an opportunity to study and document the various layers of degraded, non-original surface coatings—a mixture of black-brown pigmented wax and oils—with Florentine conservator and metals specialist, Ludovica Nicolai. Nicolai has worked on a great number of Soldani’s works in the Bargello collection. In collaboration with Nicolai and SAM’s conservation department, scientific analysis of the coatings was executed by a team of scientists from Adarte, Pisa University and Florence University, in order to inform the cleaning approach. Over four months, solvent gels were used to soften the hardened coatings, followed by cleaning with dental tools and the flexible tips of porcupine quills to gently remove the non-original layers from the surface.
Meanwhile, the missing crown of thorns was re-cast by the Florentine foundry Ciglia e Carrai. Two sources informed the crown’s recreation: a 1970–1990s image of the sculpture located in the Fondazione Zeri archives (housed in Bologna), and the original wax model of the sculpture located in the Palazzo Pitti collection.
At the conclusion of the treatment, a stylistically appropriate wooden base was constructed—whose form echoes the porcelain version in the Bargello exhibition. This replaces the modern stone mount on which it has been previously displayed.
This project was a truly international collaboration. As well as the experts mentioned above, we are particularly grateful to Dr. Paola D’Agostino and Dr. Dimitrios Zikos and their colleagues at the Bargello for their abiding support and for being so generous with their knowledge. To conserve a sculpture like this in its original place of creation is a significant funding challenge, and we wish to thank the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, The Museo Nazionale del Bargello, SAM’s Plestcheeff Fund for Decorative Arts, an anonymous foundation and an anonymous individual donor. Thanks to their support, we can present and share the story of this magnificent Florentine baroque sculpture.
– Geneva Griswold, SAM Associate Conservator& Nicholas Dorman, Chief Conservator
Images: Installation view Body Language, Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photo: Natali Wiseman. Before conservation photo: Ludovica Nicolai. Installation view Museo Nazionale del Bargello, 2017, photo: Arrigo Coppitz. During installation and details photo: Ludovica Nicolai. Fondazione Federico Zeri Archive | no. 149804Silver gelatin print, ca. 1970–1989 During treatment in the Bargello Museum galleries, photo: Geneva Griswold. After conservation photo: Ludovica Nicolai. Installed on pedestal photo: Arrigo Coppitz. The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, ca. 1714, Massimiliano Soldani, Bronze, 34 x 32 3/4 x 22 1/2 in. Samuel H. Kress Collection, 61.178.
We believe art is for everyone and right now everyone can experience a new kinetic sound sculpture installed at SAM’s 1st and Union entrance. Playing music, projecting poetry, and covered in the text, drawings, and collage by artists with lived experiences of homeless, Hear & Now is a collaboration between internationally celebrated artist, composer, and musician Trimpin and Path with Art students presented for you to view for free!
Built from an antique hand-pulled wagon originally built by Trimpin’s father in Germany, the work is activated by pressing the play button situated next to the object. Each tap triggers a different musical composition or poem created in collaboration with teaching artists. Hear & Now is free and accessible to all and will be on view through July 15. Visit the entire museum for free on Thursday, June 6, and catch the Hear & Now Performances and Artist Talkback taking place 6–8:30 pm featuring pop-up performances by the student artists, a movement piece directed by Rachel Brumer and Monique Holt accompanied by the musical compositions played by the sculpture, and a chance to hear from Trimpin.
Get primed for Thursday evening with this
interview with Trimpin and a Path with Art student artist.
How did you start working with Path with Art?
Five years ago, I was Composer in Residence with the Seattle Symphony
Orchestra. The last year of the three-year residency involves a public-outreach
workshop. I decided to work with a group of Path with Art student artists. I
was first introduced to Path with Art at a performance at the Hugo House; I was
impressed with the artistic caliber of all the performing artists.
Tyler Marcil: Jennifer Lobsenz, the Program Director at the time, asked me to participate in this project in the summer of 2017. We worked with Christina Orbe for six weeks and Yonnas Getahun for two weeks over the course of eight workshops at Trimpin’s studio.
During these workshops, we created found poetry – I had never
done anything quite like that before. I took a story that I had already written
called, “The Woman on the Sidewalk,” and pulled words from that story to create
new poems for the sculpture. A year later, I was invited to record work for
Path with Art at Jack Straw Cultural Center.
What is the significance of the wagon wheel as a foundation
for the sculpture? How does it relate to experiences of homelessness?
When I was beginning to conceptualize the interdisciplinary workshop, mobility
and transition was a major consideration. Aware that most homeless people are
in continual transition, the wagon-wheel was a starting platform to build up
the story, not just metaphorically, but literally as a sound object which is
mobile. It is similar to the way the wagon was used in my family to haul a
variety of items around, and I still remember watching my father when he was
building the wagon from scratch.
How did the artists collaborate on the creation of the final
Tyler: The first group to meet was our group—the poets. The visual artists then took the found poems we created, turning these magnificent words into different pieces of art. Then the musicians came and made compositions inspired by the language and the artwork.
Hear & Now allowed many people to contribute their skills to this larger
project. The people who were involved all have different ways of expressing
themselves. Through this project, their voices are heard, and they are able to
speak from their soul through their medium. Without this
opportunity, they might feel silenced—without a voice, or without their voices
Can you share a moment of discovery or breakthrough in the
process that left an impression on you? Why did that moment stand out to you?
Artists in general are not collaborating with other artists very often. A part
of the workshop was to teach each student that we don’t have to compete with
each other; and we actually can work together and contribute each individual’s
expertise to make the project successful. This process was very important to me
and the project would not exist without the great commitment and interaction of
each individual student.
Tyler: I don’t like hearing my own voice. When we were recording our stories at Jack Straw I could feel my heart racing because it’s a voice that my mother created by teaching us to speak a certain way. I could hear the –eds and the –ings. Those were important in my household growing up.
When I was forced that day to listen to my voice I cried inside
because I realized—my voice is beautiful. And had I known that it was
beautiful, I would have listened all along. And now when I ask people, what
is it about my stories or poetry that you like? They tell me, it’s your voice.
What do you hope the sculpture can inspire in a viewer?
My hope is that the viewer can hear and see that a group of Path with Art
student artists—adults—who have lived the experience of homelessness, addiction
or other trauma, have earned the ability, knowledge, and imagination to
collaborate, design, write, and compose and to achieve a project at this high
Tyler: I hope that Hear & Now will bring awareness of people who have lived experience of homelessness. That the person living that experience could be you. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be prejudiced, or disown others as though they don’t exist.
And I think by having a sculpture that shares these wonderful
voices, not only are you hearing their voices, but your hearing that they’re a
person. The voice you hear is coming from them, from their humanity.
How does the upcoming performance connect to the sculpture?
For the upcoming performance, the students are performing live, interacting
with the instrumentation of the wagon with their own voice or instrument.
Tyler: It ties together these themes of voicelessness and visibility for those experiencing homelessness. It connects to the sculpture because it’s using American Sign Language to present stories for those who cannot hear or speak, and ties in this concept communicating in different ways—with our voices, but also with our hands. This whole project is about lifting up those who have so often been silenced, and widening our circles of empathy and understanding, and the performance brings together both people with lived experience, and those without while exploring these themes.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM Content Strategist & Social Media Manager
Images: Installation view Hear & Now at Seattle Art Museum, 2019, photos: Natali Wiseman.
Path with Art would like to extend a special thank you to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods for making this project possible.
If you’ve strolled through the Olympic Sculpture Park since May you’re probably wondering about the tire tracks covering the PACCAR Pavilion. As if monster trucks went rogue or a motorcycle gang veered off Western Avenue to burn some surreal rubber, the building is wrapped in a pattern of skid marks. Look closely and you’ll spot five toy motorcycles on the interior mural wall, the origin of this mind-bending temporary intervention—by one of Latin America’s most influential contemporary artists—that alters our perceptions of our physical environment.
Commissioned by SAM, Regina Silveira: Octopus Wrap is the latest architectural installation the artist has realized around the world. Hailing from Brazil and examining the ways superimposed images change the meaning of an existing space, Silveira took inspiration from the Olympic Sculpture Park’s location at the intersection of several busy thoroughfares. Next time you visit the park, tune in to the sounds of traffic, trains under the greenway, and the churning sea, as you take in Octopus Wrap, on view through March 8, 2020
Silveira’s interventions on the exteriors and interiors of buildings, on city streets and in public parks, have included dense clusters of footprints, swarms of insects, nocturnal light projections of animal tracks that wander across building façades, and exaggerated shadows. Some of her installations have the appearance of occupations, infestations, or supernatural visitations; others seem to be fantastical apparitions that suspend the laws of nature and perception.
For Regina Silveira, a political element of these ruptures resides in their assault on our perception or, in her words, “in the level of transformation that can be brought about by grafting something into a given space in a way that magically changes its relationship to the real.” Her aim is estrangement from the familiar, and her preferred tactic is surprise. Beyond a heightened sensory experience within a newly defined space, Silveira’s mode of intervention can also be understood in social and political terms.
With Octopus Wrap, the pavilion’s calm, white walls are noisily invaded by five motorcyclists who use the windows, walls, and floor as their racetrack. When seen from a distance, the undulating tracks create another, larger image, one that ensnares the architecture as if within the arms of an octopus. The installation will be temporary, but the new images and sensations it creates will enter our memory and form a lasting imprint of a different kind.
We extend a special thank you to our generous SAM Fund donors who helped make this installation possible.
“Reverberating beyond the badge-required halls of Amazonia is a bigger
conversation about the company’s contributions—or lack thereof—to Seattle’s
creative community as a whole, considering how much it’s altered the city’s
physical and cultural footprint.”
limited existing roles for [black artists] is exhausting, and never-ending,”
Jemison says. “And black artists are very aware that being selected is super
arbitrary and predicated on partial understanding of the work.”
How many Everlast punching bags has Jeffrey Gibson turned into hanging sculptures? What number did Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You” reach on the Billboard chart? What do these two things have to do with each other? Visit Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer and find out before it closes May 12!
Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer is a major museum exhibition presenting a significant selection of this contemporary artist’s exuberant artwork created since 2011. Gibson’s complex work reflects varied influences, including fashion and design, abstract painting, queer identity, popular music, and the materials and aesthetics of Native American cultures. The more than 65 works on view include beaded punching bags, figures and wall hangings, abstract geometric paintings on rawhide and canvas, performance video, and a new multimedia installation.
If you have ever walked through Seattle Art Museum’s South Hall, you may have noticed the weekly rotation of beautiful flower arrangements adjacent to the camel sculptures. The flower endowment was created in remembrance of Ann M. Barwick by her husband Thomas Barwick and their children.
From grand peacock feathers in the summer, to miniature pumpkins in the fall, these arrangements light up the room year-round at the entrance of the museum. These flowers are a public declaration of Tom’s love and appreciation for Ann, nature, and SAM.
Ann was an active member of her local gardening and arts community. After raising her four children, Ann decided to pursue a second degree in art history. She began her career in the arts community, where she worked as a Trustee at the Henry Art Gallery and at the Seattle Art Museum. She became a leader in the arts in the city as well as in the state where she was the head of the Arts Committee for the Washington State Governor’s Mansion and the co-founder of the American Art Council of Seattle.
Make sure you take a second to smell the roses the next time you visit the museum!
“Initially I was asked to make a piece that responded to the room but that also looked at the human cost of the porcelain trade.” – Claire Partington
Get a new perspective on SAM’s popular Porcelain Room through the site-specific work of contemporary British ceramic artist Claire Partington. Claire Partington: Taking Tea features an installation referencing Baroque painting and European porcelain factories, as well as a panel mounted with fragments from 17th- and 18th-century shipwrecks. The Porcelain Room is a SAM favorite for visitors with more than 1,000 European and Asian porcelain pieces from SAM’s collection grouped to evoke porcelain as a treasured commodity between the East and the West. See it on view through December 2020.
“We took a lot of cues from the Olmsted plan and their design intent, their aesthetic and some of the principles they brought to planning all of the trails and pathways within this park,” explains Chris Jones, principal at Walker Macy, the firm overseeing the renovated landscape design. He continues, “In lieu of putting in plazas around the museum, we’re grading the landscape in a way that maintains the recreation that occurs onsite, really supporting the character of the park as the Olmsteds would, emphasizing a nice pastoral landscape with open lawn and trees.”
In addition to their importance within the pastoral aesthetic, trees intersect with the design process in another way. The design team has been working with the guidance of an onsite arborist, who has been integral to the renovation processes by making recommendations for construction methods and identifying important root areas to avoid, in order to best support the trees’ health.
The pathways surrounding the museum are also central to the Asian Art Museum’s landscape renovation plan. This includes creating safer traffic circulation around the museum, constructing a more direct connection between the museum and public transit on 15th Avenue, and improving accessibility to the museum. The plan also realizes two pathways that were in Olmsted’s original plan for Volunteer Park but were never fully established, an element that was developed in response to community groups’ input on the design. Jones says, “The intent was to provide each park-goer with an improvement that’s visible on a daily basis . . . I think we achieved that by coming to a really happy consensus that reflects the input from the community.”
In the months ahead, we will continue exploring the future of the Asian Art Museum as the renovations progress towards the much-anticipated re-opening in 2019.
“In the scratches, cracks, fingerprints, and delicate color shifts that surround and sometimes cover the sitters’ faces, we are looking at portraits of individuals through the unmistakable portal of time.”
Every year brings the creative process of local artists to the Olympic Sculpture Park through our artist-in-residence program, Art Encounters. This year Christine Babic (Chugach Alutiiq) is working away on SKIN SEWERS at the PACCAR Pavilion. Babic—in collaboration with her mother, artist Mary Babic (Chugach Alutiiq), and Alex Britt (Nansemond, White)—is combining performance and installation to create a site-specific experience that explores the gap between contemporary and traditional Indigenous works. Art Encounters are a chance to learn about the practice of making art while participating in experiences that respond to the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Seattle region. This year you can get involved by dropping into one or both of the Art Encounters on January 25 and February 22, from 7–9 pm.
SAM: I love this description of this as an intestinal window into a shared history. I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit upon on the connection to land, skin, and history in Skin Sewers.
Christine Babic: Since this residency is at the Olympic Sculpture Park, we wanted to talk about land and what land means for Indigenous people. Through SKIN SEWERS, we’re trying to get a sense of generational gaps and what the spectrum of generations think of land and its meaning. For both my mom and I, who are from Alaska, we’ve talked about subsistence as being the first thing that comes to mind when we think of land—the resources and gifts of the land.
Mary Babic: I was raised in Seattle. I really did not know what Alutiiq meant. I knew I was Alutiiq and I knew I was German. When I moved to Alaska in 1980 I realized I was immersed in Chugach Alutiiq culture. So, I wanted to learn everything I could about my background. I started sewing woods, firs, leathers, and started beading. Friends in the area shared a lot about utilizing the resources we had and living off the land. Not only would you use a seal for its meat (which is very high in iron), but you would also use every part of it. You wouldn’t waste anything. You were always grateful. You would always thank the animal for giving itself to you. That was one thing I learned right away about subsistence. So, I started sewing with the fur. I also learned how to clean the intestine and to blow it out and make things out of it.
Christine: It’s an interesting material because it’s a waterproof material, and it’s semi-opaque. And it has this simultaneous fragility and strength to it. You get it wet to sew with it and then it dries. It can be used as rain jackets. Seal intestine was also used for death masks. It was a kind of protection—a spiritual protection. Not only from the rain and weather but this spiritual protection that comes with using these materials. So, there’s a lot of dualities when using these materials. For us, it’s not only an experiment in Indigenous materials but also this spiritual connection to our culture. Doing these things that your ancestors did—these are Indigenous materials and we are Indigenous people. Only Indigenous people can source seal. They’re protected under the marine mammal protection. The materials used in SKIN SEWERS are synthetics, but we’re going off of tradition and what our ancestors used. When people are displaced from their land, there’s no access to the materials that we’ve always used. Practicing culture and making artwork is part of cultural evolution and is important to us as Native people—SKIN SEWERS is not an answer, this a conversation.
What kind of materials will be involved in this performance?
Christine: For this, we’re using a synthetic intestine which is collagen, pig intestines, and fish skin. So, inner skins and outer skins. Seal intestines is much harder to get. Something I’m addressing is the evolution of Indigenous material and how we use these things in place of seal gut. In my grandmother’s generation, there was a lot of Americanizing going on so she never wanted to be a Native. She wanted to be as assimilated as possible because there was so much racism happening. When my mother moved back to Alaska she was able to relearn our culture and reclaim these things and identities as Native. My mom raised me as a Native person so those ideas are what I’m referencing. I can carry my Native-ness with pride but there is a gap culturally for us, generationally, because my grandmother did not have that option. Through these materials, there’s a lot of acknowledgment happening.
You’ve mentioned learning traditional sewing techniques from your mom. Have you two collaborated creatively before? What does your collaboration looks like?
Christine: Always. In every show, my mom helped. This is probably our first official collaboration. My mom is inspired by tradition, so she’s really obsessed with researching how our ancestors used to do things. I really like performance art and contemporary art. Bringing parts of what my mother taught me into a contemporary context and working together allows me to make performances out of things that you may not necessarily think are performances, like sewing. This lets us look at them in a different lens—that’s interesting for me.
Mary: You definitely take me out of my comfort zone. I do tend to be more traditional in my artwork and I have been working on a curriculum for Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation that teaches about traditional artwork and how to make clothing. I’m working on that project right now. Working a little more contemporary with the material has definitely opened my eyes. The fish skin that we have in the show, we made a non-traditional and traditional tan. We’ve used brains from the deer and some of that is in the window that we have on display. We also did a non-traditional tent which was using glycerin and rubbing alcohol and that I have a video on that I hope to show during the presentation as well.
Have you collaborated with Alex Britt before?
Christine: No, but I really am a fan of their work. They’re very image-based and a photographer. I always liked how they explained their relationship to the body and land. Bringing in different Indigenous perspectives is important to SKIN SEWERS. Obviously, there is such a wide spectrum. Alex’s photos will be a part of the installation. So, I think it will just kind of show the distances and the different ways we think about land and Native perspectives.
When people come to your Art Encounter, what should they expect to experience?
Christine: This is an active installation, where people can move freely about and get close to the materials and watch how we work with the materials. You’ll get a sense of how our ancestors used and talked about these. We’ll also have texts about the duality of materials and how we want to continue to use them and bring these materials and traditions wherever we go and think about them as they evolve. We’re going to have a demonstration to inflate the pig intestine. This is similar to the way that ancestors used seal intestines—blowing them up, drying, and cutting them. The labor that goes into using them, how much time and care goes into the work—the performance parts of SKIN SEWERS are an act of care and respect for the material, the land, and our tradition. The process is valuable and beautiful, using these materials involves being meticulous, careful, and loving. We come from people who are sewers, who sew skins. SKIN SEWERS, as a project, is really to highlight how important the action is and not just the finished object. I wanted to show other people the performance through the physical actions and what that looks like.
For the third year of our winter Olympic Sculpture Park artist residency, we changed things up a bit. Unlike the last two years, this year’s artist was not selected through an open call, but selected in collaboration with yəhaw̓, an exhibition celebrating the depth and diversity of Indigenous art made in the Pacific Northwest. Curated by Tracy Rector, Asia Tail, and Satpreet Kahlon, yəhaw̓ opens at King Street Station March 23, 2019. You can see more of Christine Babic’s work when it opens! We’ll see you there.
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM Content Strategist and Social Media Manager
Over the years, SAM has from time to time brought together a group of community members from diverse backgrounds and affiliations to advise on the presentation of a special exhibition. In 2009, SAM met with leaders of the city’s South Asian community when a set of exquisite royal paintings from Jodhpur would be presented at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. A group of fashion designers and instructors advised the museum—and helped create a fashion show featuring local designers at the museum—for SAM’s fall 2016 exhibition celebrating the work of the legendary Yves Saint Laurent.
These, and numerous other examples, signify the importance to SAM of connecting with people outside of the organization to fulfill its mission of reflecting the community it serves. This ethos guides much of SAM’s work already; for example, the Education & Public Engagement Division nurtures ongoing relationships with local artists, performers, writers, and other culture-makers in presenting dynamic programming and events.
Now it’s official: going forward, the museum will bring this community-centered process to the development of all major special exhibitions presented throughout the year, convening Advisory Committees who will meet and advise the museum throughout the planning process.
The exhibition would be held for the sesquicentennial of the birth of photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868–1952), but far from a celebration, SAM would present a richly nuanced re-evaluation of his legacy. “While Curtis made many contributions to the fields of art and ethnography, his romanticized picture of Native identity has cast a lingering shadow over the perception of Native peoples,” noted Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art. “Today, Indigenous artists are creating aesthetic archives reclaiming agency over their visual representation.” Brotherton worked with three contemporary Indigenous artists—Marianne Nicolson, Tracy Rector, and Will Wilson—to conceive of Double Exposure, an exhibition that would thread their works in conversation with Curtis’ iconic photographs, as well as objects from SAM’s collection.
This collaboration between curator and contemporary artists also included the advisory committee, whose feedback helped make space at the museum for a reckoning with Curtis’s legacy. With Double Exposure, SAM took a big step in its efforts to decolonize the museum. We’d like to acknowledge the committee members once again: Dr. Charlotte Coté (Tseshaht / Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation), Jarrod Da (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Colleen Echohawk-Hayashi (Pawnee Nation / Upper Ahtna Athabascan), Andy Everson (K’ómoks First Nation), Jason Gobin (Tulalip Tribe), Darrell Hillaire (Lummi Nation), Madrienne Salgado (Muckleshoot Tribe), Lydia Sigo (Suquamish Tribe), Asia Tail (Cherokee Nation), and Ken Workman (Duwamish Tribe).
To bring together the advisory committees, invitations are sent to leaders, artists, and thinkers whose own work and communities are reflected in the particular themes of an exhibition. These selections are drawn from SAM’s already-rich network of partnerships and more importantly provide opportunities to create new connections with community leaders and organizations in the region. Reflecting the value of this work, and ensuring that the opportunity to serve is accessible to everyone, SAM offers a stipend to all committee members. Each committee meets with a cross-divisional group of SAM staff who are charged with taking the feedback and guidance of the members back to their colleagues. Interacting with each step of the exhibition-making process over the course of multiple meetings—including curatorial, marketing, education, and more—the committee’s input contributes to the development of exhibition content, communication, and interpretation.
Advisory Committees for upcoming exhibitions are already at work. SAM is grateful for their dedication—and eager to experience how this community-centered model contributes to SAM’s mission to connect art to life.
– Rachel Eggers,SAM Equity Team Outreach Taskforce Chair
Photo: Natali Wiseman. Pictured, L to R: Ken Workman (Duwamish Tribe), Jarrod Da (San Ildefonso Pueblo), Dr. Charlotte Coté (Tseshaht / Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation), Curator of Native American Art Barbara Brotherton, Double Exposure artist Tracy Rector, Asia Tail (Cherokee Nation), Lydia Sigo (Suquamish Tribe), Madrienne Salgado (Muckleshoot Tribe). Not pictured: Colleen Echohawk-Hayashi (Pawnee Nation / Upper Ahtna Athabascan), Andy Everson (K’ómoks First Nation), Jason Gobin (Tulalip Tribe), Darrell Hillaire (Lummi Nation).
“Renovating a museum that is an architectural icon is no small task,” explains Sam Miller, Partner at LMN Architects, the firm overseeing the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s renovation and expansion design. Preservation of the landmark building is essential, but modern demands necessitate change. These changes include improved ADA accessibility, seismic and climate control upgrades, and other electrical/mechanical controls imperative to present-day museum standards. The renovation features a modest expansion that adds exhibition and educational space, allowing the museum to better serve the community.
The Art Deco building is considered one of architect Carl F. Gould’s greatest achievements. “Our goal has been to impact the existing spaces as minimally as possible,” Miller says of LMN’s approach to the renovation process. “When there’s any new intervention that’s not replicating or preserving the historic architecture, we’re distinguishing the work with a more contemporary detailing so it’s clearly different from the building’s historic fabric.”
Gould’s original design serves as inspiration to LMN’s renovation plan, as does historic Volunteer Park, designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm in 1903. “There is this beautiful building in a beautiful historic park, and yet the two weren’t connected. We felt restoring some of that connection would be a great opportunity,” Miller says.
He explained how Gould’s design incorporated skylights that flooded the galleries with light, as well as windows with views into Volunteer Park. However, later building additions and a transition towards artificial lighting closed off many of those elements. The renovations will include LED light boxes that allow display of light-sensitive objects in an environment inspired by the original skylights. LMN also designed a glass lobby addition that improves building circulation while also providing park views. Conceived by Gould as an indoor-outdoor space, the Fuller Garden Court will also offer those views, through two new openings that will connect it to the lobby. “As you stand in the Garden Court, you’re going to have this incredible view of the park,” Miller says.
The community was integral to the design process. SAM received feedback from the City, local parks groups, and other community members. In addition to suggesting changes to a building staircase and landscaping that were incorporated into the final design, the community also led the museum back to an important source of inspiration—the Olmsted Brothers’ historic design for Volunteer Park pathways. In response to this feedback, SAM is restoring a set of Olmsted-designed paths. This opportunity to complete and augment these walkways through Volunteer Park speaks to the nature of the restoration project: historic preservation that has led to design inspiration.
In the months ahead, we will continue exploring the future of the museum as the renovations progress towards the much-anticipated re-opening in 2019.
Thanks to funding from Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project, a pair of important 17th-century Japanese screens, Scenes in and around the Capital, are currently being restored by specialists at Studio Sogendo, a private studio in California. The screens, likely created by a machi-eshi, or “town painter,” present a panoramic view of Kyoto during the Edo period. They show both Kyoto’s center and its periphery, and give insight into the daily lives of different social classes, in addition to representing seasonal festivals.
When the screens first arrived at SAM in 1975, they were already in fragile condition and by the time this conservation work began in 2017, extensive repairs were desperately needed. Painted using ink, color, and gold, and mounted on wooden frames, the screens are being restored using traditional Japanese methods and materials. I was able to visit Studio Sogendo while one of the panels had been stripped of its backings and laid on a light table, allowing a rare perspective of the materials and quality of the painting. The conservation treatment has been invaluable, not just in terms of preserving the paintings, but also in offering opportunities for examination and study. The internal frames must be replaced and expert craftsmen in Japan made new custom frames for the work. The incredibly precise joinery of the new frames can be seen in these images. The conservation phase of the project is nearing completion and the reassembly of the structure, replacement of the mount fabrics, and retouching of the areas of loss is underway.
This crucial project would not be possible without Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project, one of few programs dedicated to preserving historically or culturally significant artworks. We look forward to the return of Scenes in and around the Capital, which will be on view among SAM’s extensive Asian art collection when the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens in late 2019!
We are thrilled to see significant progress on our construction at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Our construction partners BNBuilders have completed the interior demolition in preparation for rebuilding reinforced walls. Many structural upgrades are also underway, in addition to preparing for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing improvements. The foundations for the East Addition have been completed and preparations for installing the North Addition foundations have begun.
In the image above, the translucent panel ceiling of the Fuller Garden Court has been removed to access the concrete walls above that require seismic retrofitting. With the ceiling taken down, the beautiful laminated glass skylights (original to the 1930’s design but replaced in the 1990s) have been temporarily revealed.
South exhibit hall looking south
In addition, the demolition of interior gallery walls has been completed. The hollow clay tile walls at the perimeter of the galleries will remain, but have been opened up for seismic upgrades. Structural improvements are continuing inside the existing spaces. As is common with historic buildings, asbestos was found and safely removed.
Auditorium looking south
The seats have been removed from the auditorium, along with the sound booth that previously stood in the middle of the back row.
Alvord Board Room looking southeast
The interior wall of the Alvord Board Room has been removed. Once the expansion is complete, this area will be transformed into our new education space.
Want to know more about what’s happening at the Asian Art Museum? See renderings and get more news on the website about the project.
A brilliant conservator once noted that “art conservation is a fight against entropy.” This is especially visible for works sited outside which require conservators, artists, and stakeholders to carefully consider what is essential for an outdoor sculpture to continue to exist for future generations. When the carved cedar elements of Mark di Suvero’s sculpture Bunyon’s Chess were no longer structurally stable, di Suvero and his studio worked closely with the Seattle Art Museum to explore the artwork and discover solutions.
Bunyon’s Chess was created by Mark di Suvero in 1965 for Virginia and Bagley Wright’s residence in Seattle. The family’s documentation of the creative process provides wonderful insight into the artwork.
In 2006 the Wrights promised the work to the Seattle Art Museum and it was moved to the Olympic Sculpture Park. The cedar elements had begun to show degradation in their original site but this accelerated at the park partially due to the exposed location and partially due to the natural deterioration of cedar. As cedar ages in an outdoor setting a number of events occur: the natural biocide slowly migrates out with water, the wood absorbs water at an increasing rate as it deteriorates, fungal deterioration is common, as well as insect and wildlife damage. The logs of Bunyon’s Chess were treated annually with a fungicide to slow the fungal deterioration but without major visual interventions such as end caps or moving the sculpture to an interior location, deterioration continued at a fairly rapid pace.
In 2009 an in-depth condition assessment was performed which determined that the deterioration, particularly on the interior had progressed to a state where the logs were in danger of falling. In 2010, the logs were consolidated, the large losses filled and the exterior coated to prolong the life. During this period research and conversations with di Suvero regarding the replacement were begun as this treatment could not prolong the life of the cedar indefinitely. Di Suvero determined that new logs could be carved to replace the original cedar, as it is the visual integrity of the work that is important.
After much research, new cedar of the similar dimensions and tight ring growth was sourced for carving. Seattle artist Brian Beck peeled the logs in preparation for carving.
Kent Johnson and Daniel Roberts from di Suvero’s studio traveled to Seattle and carved the new logs using the original cedar elements as a guide.
Beck worked with Johnson and Roberts to create the same join between the two logs. Much of the original hardware such as the 36” bronze bolts and galvanized steel eyehooks were presevered and reused on the newly carved elements.
If you look carefully, at the top of the sculpture you will note a slight bend in the top tube. Di Suvero wanted this natural bend to remain but believed this opportunity should be used to reinforce the structure.
Fabrication Specialties Ltd. worked with the di Suvero studio to create an interior support which was welded in place.
The logs were strung with new stainless steel cabling and were carefully measured and marked to the lengths of the original cables to assist with the rigging. Larry Tate, Andrew Malcolm, Tracy Taft, Ignacio Lopez, and Travis Leonard of Fabrication Specialties placed the new logs within the original steel frame working closely with images and a model of the original. The di Suvero studio generously participated in video calls throughout the day.
Special thank you to: Mark di Suvero and Studio, Virginia Wright, Fabrication Specialties Ltd, Equinox Studios, Alta Forest Products, Brian Beck, Christian French, and Catharina Manchanda for helping preserve this public artwork free for everyone to enjoy at the Olympic Sculpture Park year round.
Seattle is that rare location where it isn’t trite to make conversation about the weather. Right now it’s that time of year where elsewhere in the world the sun is beginning to shine again, but in Seattle the sky is still a solid grey. SAM Gallery artist, Laura Van Horne doesn’t mind the muted monochrome of Seattle in the spring. Instead, she feels it is the perfect backdrop for the colorful paintings she currently has on display at TASTE Café. Learn more about the artist and see her paintings on view through May 6. If a pop of color is what you need in your life right now, consider renting or buying art from SAM Gallery.
I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and moved to Seattle, WA in 1994. During my schooling I spent several winters in North Dakota, Boston and New York, so was thrilled to move to mild-weathered Seattle. I am not bothered by the rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest, as it gives me a perfect excuse to spend the day inside, painting at my studio. I feel my work is greatly influenced by my surroundings. Living in Seattle is breathtakingly beautiful. I love to go for walks and photograph everything around me, and am especially drawn to the trees, which frequently show up collaged into my encaustic paintings. My body of work is often abstract and landscape inspired with lots of layering.
The Geode Series, which is on display now at TASTE Café in the SAM is packed full of color which is in contrast to the gray palate of Seattle. Gray is the perfect backdrop for these pops of color. These abstract paintings have evolved from years of experimentation with an elixir of inks, pigments, paints, and resin used on a variety of substrates. The result appears organic and scientific with geodes, human cells, irises and orbs coming to mind.
Images: Kiwi Cocktail, 2018, Laura Van Horne, encaustic, ink, metal on board. Courtesy of the artist.
During the few months between the Seattle Asian Art Museum closing its doors and the start of the renovation and expansion, our staff was keeping busy. While the entire Asian art collection was relocated to our downtown location to store and protect it during the construction, the curatorial staff began thinking about how to display it when the museum opens again in fall 2019. Xiaojin Wu, SAM’s Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, and Ping Foong,Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art made use of the empty museum walls to brainstorm how the future of the galleries will be organized.
L to R: Xiaojin Wu, Ping Foong
One traditional method of curation is to group objects according to the region they come from. When the museum reopens, the goal is to move beyond this method and explore new ways of integrating and presenting the eclectic artworks. “The challenge,” says Wu “is attempting to create accessible art while embracing how complex art and history can be.”
Cross-cultural display is interesting but it can be confusing to present as a museum and to understand as a visitor. “We’re more concerned about boredom,” Says Wu. “The key is excitement—making people want to learn.”
L to R: Rachel Harris, Amelia Love
There are 13 galleries in the Asian Art museum to use for the collection works and the items within them will need to rotate regularly since all Asian paintings and textiles are light sensitive and every six months, or so, they need to rest, sometimes for years at a time!
Ping Foong organizing our collection
It’s hard to gain a sense of scale from print outs, but planning how the rich and diverse piece of our Asian Art Museum will fit back together again is underway! Learn more about the entire renovation and expansion process on our website or, if you’re a SAM member, don’t miss Ping Foong and Xiaojin Wu discussing their plans for the museum in more detail at Conversations with Curators, June 20. From large Buddha sculptures to delicate hair clips, how you would place these priceless objects in the newly upgraded museum when it reopens?
– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Content Strategist & Social Media Manager