COVID-19 Update: All SAM Locations Currently Closed »

Wonder with Mann und Maus

I am concerned with the point where you start to wonder about the existence of things.

– Katharina Fritsch

The artist Katharina Fritsch creates sculptures of familiar objects but adjusts them through changes in scale and color. Looming over a sleeping man, the rat in Mann and Maus inspires many interpretations. Although the delicate figure is seemingly crushed under the giant rodent, the man appears to slumber soundly. In the 1980s and ‘90s a generation of German artists emerged who were deeply distrustful of dominant social and historic narratives and broke from the art movements that preceded them. Fritsch wields her dark strand of irony as a tool for critical commentary. Fritsch says this about her work: “The results are often jarring and may remind you of a dream or perhaps a nightmare.” 

Take some time to let your wonder wander as you listen to storyteller Jéhan Òsanyìn’s response to Mann and Maus above.

Now take a listen to Sylvia Fisher, SAM docent and former docent for The Wright Space, discuss her view on Jinny connecting audiences with art, both as a collector and a docent herself. Jinny collected contemporary works of her time that are often simultaneously complex and broadly appealing. Created in 1991–92, German artist Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus combines the emotional response of animals with the psychological impact of larger-than-life scale, making it a popular artwork for audiences of all ages. In the photo above, her grandchildren admire the sculpture at The Wright Space.

The Wright Exhibition Space was a noncommercial gallery designed purely for the enjoyment of art that opened on Dexter Avenue in 1999. Jinny curated different thematic exhibitions and invited friends, family, and curators to organize shows, drawing on the holdings of their growing collection. Free to the public, it became a gathering space and a favorite place to mingle and discuss art.

We’re celebrating Jinny’s collection in City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped A New Seattle. The works in our galleries are a transformative gift for SAM and a foundation on which we will build. As we consider the pressing issues of our time, the museum envisions the city of our tomorrow with new collection priorities and artists that represent and reflect our broader community. Unfortunately, City of Tomorrow has to close before the museum will be able to open due to the recently updated WA State official public health restrictions on indoor gathering. We’re sad we won’t be able to share this stunning exhibition with you, but thanks to Jinny’s incredible generosity and legacy, visitors to SAM can see artworks like Mann und Maus on view as part of our collection. 

Credits: Mann und Maus, 1991-92, Katharina Fritsch. 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, 2007.118. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Jinny’s grandchildren with Katharina Fritsch’s Mann und Maus, photo courtesy of Jan Day. Audio produced by Ambassador Stories, 2020 © Seattle Art Museum.

Muse/News: Painting in Motion, Jimi’s Anthem, and Museums’ Role

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice, but we’re still dancing about paintings.

As City of Tomorrow: The Art That Shaped a New Seattle will not reopen to the public, we asked Seattle-based dancers Michele Dooley, Nia-Amina Minor, and Amanda Morgan to reinterpret a work from the exhibition, Cross Section (1956) by Franz Kline. The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig shared the video and her reactions (including a perfect soundtrack suggestion).

“In particular, I love the frame above where the crook of Dooley’s elbow and bent hips capture the left side of the painting, while the verticality of Minor’s body captures the right. It’s a dynamic and fun reinterpretation of work that brings new life to Kline’s black and white original.”

Local News

Roxanne Ray for International Examiner interviews Northwest Film Forum executive director Vivian Hua on her two years there bringing together art and social justice.

The Seattle Times’ Michael Rietmulder and Brendan Kiley gather reflections from members of Seattle’s cultural community on last week’s violence at the Capitol Building.

And for her weekly editor’s letter, Crosscut’s Brangien Davis fires up Jimi Hendrix’s iconic Woodstock performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Hendrix sometimes called his anthem adaptations ‘This Is America.’ The Woodstock edition is almost straightforward — albeit on a Fender Stratocaster, an American innovation itself — until he reaches ‘the rocket’s red glare.’ That’s when it rips open to reveal the pain and suffering of a nation at war with others, and within.”

Inter/National News

Dance Magazine shares its “25 to Watch” for 2021; on the list are Seattle-based dance artists Amanda Morgan of Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Seattle Project and Nia-Amina Minor of Spectrum Dance Theatre. Don’t miss the embedded video of Minor’s dance response to SAM collection work Trapsprung by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

What is the future of museums? Artnet shares excerpts from András Szántó’s forthcoming book in which he interviews museum directors and curators from around the world.

Following last week’s violent events at the Capitol, the American Alliance of Museums, along with a number of affiliates, made a statement about the role museums play in the moment.

“At this dark junction in our nation’s history, museums must lean into their missions and step up to the challenge ahead of us by fighting against white supremacy through educating our communities, building empathy, combating disinformation, and uplifting the stories and voices that have endured in the margins.”

And Finally

The return of Viennetta.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Cross Section, 1956, Franz Kline, American, 1910–1962, oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 63 in. Seattle Art Museum, Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2020.15.17. © Artist or Artist’s Estate, Photo: Paul Macapia.

Muse/News: Reflections, Lives They Lived, and Room Tone

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice, but we continue to reflect and plan for the future.

The Seattle Times shared remembrances of 11 cultural figures we lost in 2020. Chiyo Ishikawa, SAM’s former Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, wrote about Virginia “Jinny” Wright. Jinny and her enormous contributions to SAM and to the Puget Sound region are celebrated in SAM’s exhibition City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art Shaped A New Seattle, which closes January 18.

Seattle Times columnist Naomi Ishisaka asked four leaders in the region to reflect on the past year and on what they’ll take into 2021; Priya Frank, SAM’s Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, reflected on creativity, care, and an ubiquitous sweatshirt. And in case you missed it: Priya appeared on KUOW’s The Record back in November talking museums and accessibility.

Local News

2020 feel like a blur? Seattle Met has you covered with this timeline of the year, including the February reopening of the reimagined Asian Art Museum (we hardly knew ye!).

“A giant of Native Northwest Coast art”: Artist, curator, and teacher Bill Holm passed away at the age of 95 earlier in December. Barbara Brotherton, SAM’s Curator of Native American Art, spoke with the Seattle Times about how she “found her calling” in his classes.

Also in the Seattle Times: The largest-ever edition of their annual Pictures of the Year project. Take a moment to reflect on the visual stories that their team of photojournalists captured, against all odds.

“Everything we needed was suddenly in short supply. One photographer sewed masks for the entire staff. Others dredged masks out of their garages and closets. Yet another photographer found a supply of hand sanitizer made by a local distiller. Not wanting to worsen the shortage of PPE in this country, we eventually found a supply of more masks overseas. We’ve gone through a lot of them.”

Inter/National News

Artnet writers name 10 acclaimed exhibitions they wish they could have seen this year, including Artemisia at London’s National Gallery, Awol Erizku’s show at FLAG Art Foundation, and—what’s this?—Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle at the Met? Lucky you, the exhibition arrives at SAM next spring.

Artist John Outterbridge passed away December 23 at the age of 87. Celebrated for his assemblage work, he was also a former director of the Watts Towers Arts Center; read more about his life and practice in the Los Angeles Times obituary.

The New York Times Magazine shares its annual end-of-year project, “The Lives They Lived.” Don’t miss Jenna Wortham on grappling with the afterlife of Breonna Taylor.

“I’ve come to see the thousands of images of Taylor as a memory of our collective will — even though it was betrayed by the state. Anti-lynching efforts were ultimately successful in reshaping the historical and cultural memory of the brutality and immorality of those deaths. ‘We shouldn’t see them — or this — as a failure, but as a project on the road to redemption,’ [Leigh] Raiford told me. She reminded me that memory and memorialization are necessary for that work, as is the honest appraisal of the past to work toward justice in the present and the future.”

And Finally

Let’s get some room tone.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Collecting with Jinny Wright

Hear from Jinny Wright on how she came to own Mark Rothko’s #10, now in SAM’s collection and on view in City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art Shaped A New Seattle. #10 is an early characteristic abstract composition for Rothko and was of great significance to Jinny Wright, setting the tone, she said, for everything she subsequently acquired. The painting was exhibited at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, next door to where Jinny worked in the early 1950s, and she recalled being bowled over by it. Purchasing this artwork was a major milestone in Jinny’s collecting of contemporary art. Before she donated it to SAM in 1991 it hung in the Wright family’s dining room alongside Barnett Newman’s The Three, also on view in City of Tomorrow.

Unfortunately City of Tomorrow closes January 18 but thanks to the generosity and vision of Jinny Wright, all 64 works in this extraordinary exhibition will be on view at SAM in the future as part of our modern and contemporary collection. This is but a fraction of the many works that Jinny and her husband Bagley gifted to SAM over the years, leaving an undeniable mark on the cultural landscape of the entire Pacific Northwest. Tomorrow we will celebrate both the new year and the birthday of Jinny who passed on in February of 2020.

Audio: Unedited footage of Virginia and Bagley Wright: SAM 75th Anniversary, 2007 © Seattle Art Museum
Image: Photo of dining room with Rothko #10 in background, photo courtesy of Jan Day.

SAM Performs: Cross Section Dances

“Moving images
When you stare at something for a while it starts to move.
When you focus/think on it long enough it will move you.” 

– Michele Dooley

Action painting is akin to an artist dancing around their canvas. In this video Michele Dooley, Nia-Amina Minor, and Amanda Morgan, three Seattle-based contemporary dance artists, reinterpret Franz Kline’s movements in Cross Section.

Cross Section came into SAM’s collection earlier this year as part of a gift made to the Seattle Art Museum from the Wright Collection in honor of the museum’s 75th Anniversary. Though it’s been on view before, it’s inclusion in City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle marks it’s debut as part of our Modern and Contemporary Collection. This exhibition presents 64 works, all from the Wright Collection, created between 1943–2003 that define bold and experimental art movements across the United States and Europe. City of Tomorrow features but a fraction of the many works that Jinny and her husband Bagley gifted to SAM over the years. Kline’s Cross Section is a striking example of the Abstract Expressionist art movement.

“There is movement present in a painter’s trace. In the remnants of each brush stroke one can sense action, physicality and gravity. What does it feel like to be a paint brush to watch and listen to it’s swipe and feel each stroke embodied. What does it feel like to move with and through a painting? In the wash of this physicality there are the inevitable left overs and spillages. That space of imperfection and slippage draws me in.” 

– Nia-Amina Minor

Like many abstract expressionist artists, Kline trained as a figurative artist but chose to work abstractly, believing that the basic elements of art—line, color, shape—could evoke a transcendent experience for a viewer. In Cross Section, thick strokes of black and white paint are layered, emphasizing movement in the composition. This work is often referred to as an example of action painting because it can be seen as a record of its making.

Though City of Tomorrow is closing on January 18, the impressive artworks in this exhibition will be on view again as part of SAM’s collection galleries—all thanks to the visionary voyage of Jinny Wright. Through her arts initiatives, donations, and fundraising, Jinny’s legacy lives not only in the art collections and institutions she helped build, but also in her staunch belief that contemporary artists define their time.

“When approaching making movement in response to this work, I immediately was drawn to how abstract it was. Only having black and white strokes leave so much room for interpretation and storytelling. I imagined I was a part of the black strokes, weaving in and out of the white portions. There’s a moment where I slowly slip my shoes off; this was improv, but I envisioned that I was leaving the black strokes to enter white strokes, intertwining them both, one not existing without the other.” 

– Amanda Morgan

Tour Public Art with Jinny Wright

While you can’t visit City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle currently, you can still experience the artful legacy left behind by Jinny Wright. Discover outdoor art in Seattle with this tour of public art acquired or commissioned by The Virginia Wright Fund. The fund was created for Jinny by her father Prentice Bloedel in 1969. Jinny stated, “Commissioning works of art for public spaces was unheard of in the late ’60s.”

Follow along to see the outdoor art that shaped a new Seattle through the initiative of Jinny Wright.

Broken Obelisk, Barnett Newman, (1963-67)
University of Washington

The representation of the obelisk as broken and inverted is intended as protest and critique of power and colonial ambition. It’s as resonant today as it was in the midst of the Vietnam War when the artist created the work.

Iliad, Alexander Liberman, 1984
Seattle Center

See this piece from all angles by walking both around and through the portal of this bright red constellation of circular forms.

Moses, Tony Smith, 1975
Seattle Center

Originally commissioned as a plywood maquette in the 1960s by the Contemporary Art Council—another brainchild of Jinny Wright—the welded steel piece, coated in black paint was realized with the help of the Wright Fund.

Wandering Rocks, Tony Smith, 2016
Olympic Sculpture Park

Make sure to walk around this five-part installation for a sense of how the artist plays with volume and perspective and geometric forms.

Bunyon’s Chess, 1965 & Schubert’s Sonata, 1992, Mark di Suvero,
Olympic Sculpture Park

Jinny Wright greatly admired Mark di Suvero. Bunyon’s Chess was Jinny’s first private commission made for her garden in the 1960s, while Schubert’s Sonata was commissioned by Jinny and the museum to be installed at the edge of Puget Sound.

Adjacent, Against, Upon, 1976, Michael Heizer
Myrtle Edwards Park

This art by Michael Heizer combines cast concrete forms and granite slabs quarried in the Cascade Mountains.

Curve, Ellsworth Kelly, 1981 & Split, Roxy Paine, 2003
Olympic Sculpture Park

Head to the PACCAR Pavilion and you’ll spot two more works from Jinny’s personal collection. Ellsworth Kelly’s Curve is installed on the entrance wall to the Pavilion and Roxy Pain’s stainless steel tree Split can be seen in the meadow below.

Hammering Man, Jonathon Borofsky, 1992
Seattle Art Museum

Conclude at SAM’s downtown location where the Hammering Man hammers 24/7, only resting once a year on Labor Day. This piece was commissioned for In Public: Seattle 1991 and supported by the Wright Fund.

Extend your tour to Western Washington University in Bellingham for a campus sculpture tour—Jinny’s Wright Fund brought spectacular commissions by artists such as Nancy Holt, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Mark di Suvero to campus for all to enjoy.

Images: Hammering Man (detail), 1992, Jonathan Borofsky, Seattle Art Museum 1% for Art funds, Museum Development Authority, Virginia Wright Fund, and Seattle City Light 1% for Art funds, photo: Natali Wiseman. Mark di Suvero, painted and unpainted steel, height: 22 ft., Gift of Jon and Mary Shirley, The Virginia Wright Fund, and Bagley Wright, 95.81, © Mark di Suvero. Adjacent, Against, Upon, 1976, Michael Heizer, National Endowment for the Arts, Contemporary Art Council of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle City Light 1% for Art funds, photo: Spike Mafford. Curve XXIV, 1981, Ellsworth Kelly, American, born 1923, Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2016.17.2, © Ellsworth Kelly. Split, 2003, Roxy Paine, American, born 1966, Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, © Roxy Paine.

Muse/News: SAM Reviews, Neddy Finalists, and a Latinx artists Showcase

SAM News

All SAM locations are currently closed until further notice. That means you can’t see City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped A New Seattle right now, but you can read The Daily of UW’s article by Andy Chia about the exhibition’s celebration of collector Jinny Wright.

“‘Jinny was always a self-effacing person, but she had a love for art and humanity. She never wanted to say we’re done with art,’ [Catharina] Manchanda said. ‘She would want us to press forward into the future with the curiosity and hope that she had.’”

And while the opening of Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence may be delayed, you can check out the artist’s interviews with Marcie Sillman of KUOW and Aaron Allen of the Seattle Medium.

“‘My thoughts are [for everyone to] be a good citizen,’ says Thomas. ‘If SAM is closed down that means all of the exhibits cannot be seen. This is not personal to me and so we all have to deal, we all have to do our part. I’m lucky because my show will be up at least for a year, so if all things go well people will be able to see my show within four to six weeks.’”

Local News

Mark Van Streefkerk of South Seattle Emerald previewed the virtual edition of Legendary Children, which was presented on Saturday. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the event highlights the talents of queer and trans Black and POC creatives and is co-presented by SAM and the Seattle Public Library.

“A welcome reprieve from isolation, a hub of safe extroversion”: The Daily’s Austen Van Der Veen on the wonders of Volunteer Park. SAM’s reimagined Asian Art Museum, which reopened in February of this year only to close again in March, is mentioned; the museum looks forward to yet another reopening in the future.

Cornish College of the Arts has announced the eight finalists for the annual Neddy Artist Awards, The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reports. Priya Frank, SAM’s Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, served as one of the jurors for the awards, which will grant $30,000 each to the two winners.

“‘I feel so excited and proud for the choices we made when selecting the eight finalists,’ said Frank in a statement. ‘All exceeded the criteria, and I was touched by the ways they express their talents in such profound and inspiring ways that allow us to see the beauty and humanity in art as a reflection of life.’”

Inter/National News

This weekend, LACMA unveiled a new outdoor sculptural installation by Alex Prager. Titled Farewell, Work Holiday Parties, the piece features “15 eerily realistic, life-size sculpted figures enjoying (enjoying?) an insurance company holiday party in full swing.”

Four activists were acquitted after taking a ceremonial spear from Marseille’s Museum of African, Oceanic, and Amerindian Arts; they successfully defended the action as free speech.

Artnet’s Brian Boucher explores the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s soon-to-debut $385 million expansion. It will feature their dramatically expanded holdings of modern and contemporary art, particularly of works by Latin American and Latinx artists.

“Fully one-quarter of the art on show in the new galleries is by Latin American and Latinx artists. Among the prizes are works by Lygia Clark, Gego (aka Gertrud Goldschmidt), Hélio Oiticica, Mira Schendel, and Joaquín Torres-García.”

And Finally

The saga of the Pig Couch.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, © Seattle Art Museum, photo: Spike Mafford.

Muse/News: Art from Home, Making space, and the John Waters Closet

SAM News

Two months after reopening the downtown museum, all SAM locations are once again closed until further notice. While our doors are closed, we invite you to stay home with SAM as we present live virtual events and engaging content on SAM Blog, including Muse/News.

From bilingual culture-loving site Ici Seattle, notre amis offer this review of City of Tomorrow, currently closed again but waiting for you when SAM reopens.

“More than anything this exhibition shows a highly intelligent woman with a strong love and curiosity for art and artists who chose to share this love with the city of Seattle. An exhibition not to be missed.”

Local News

The Stranger’s Rich Smith on the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s second digital premiere and how they’re “embracing the camera.”

And Seattle Opera held an online premiere for their production of Donizetti’s “The Elixir Love.” Thomas May reviews for the Seattle Times. 

Crosscut’s Margo Vansynghel on the launch of the Cultural Space Agency, a new public development authority (PDA) linking the cultural sector, city government, developers, and donors to “create, purchase, manage and lease property for arts and cultural spaces.” This is the PDA created by the City of Seattle since 1985, to develop the downtown Seattle Art Museum.

“‘The public development authority brings the power of government, the nimbleness of the independent sector and the partnership opportunities of social impact investment all to bear on the same problem,” [Matthew] Richter says.”

Inter/National News

Hilarie M. Sheets for the New York Times on the appointment of Klaudio Rodriguez as director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts; he joins a “growing group” of Latinx art museum directors across the country—including SAM’s director and CEO, Amada Cruz.

Artnet’s Taylor Defoe on a dispute in upstate New York over a mural created by artist Nick Cave for the façade of Jack Shainman outpost The School. Saying “TRUTH BE TOLD” in 25-foot-high black vinyl letters, the mural does not please the village’s mayor, who contends that it is merely a sign and in violation of a local code.

Filmmaker and artist John Waters will give 375 artworks to his hometown Baltimore Museum of Art; his collection includes works by Diane Arbus, Lee Lozano, Christian Marclay, Cindy Sherman, and more. As part of the gift, Waters asked that their restrooms be named in his honor.

“They thought I was kidding and I said, ‘No, I’m serious.’ It’s in the spirit of the artwork I collect, which has a sense of humor and is confrontational and minimalist and which makes people crazy…I have a lot of art that would work in a bathroom.”

And Finally

“A memorial to bad artistic impulses.”

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Installation view of City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle at Seattle Art Museum, 2020, photo: Natali Wiseman.

Muse/News: Seattle-Centric SAM, Spooky Art, and “I voted” Stickers

SAM News

“Seattle, Go See Some Art This November.” Well said, Seattle Met! In this round-up of shows to see this fall, Stefan Milne recommends SAM’s two “Seattle-centric” shows. City of Tomorrow celebrates the legacy of collector Jinny Wright and is now on view, and The Geography of Innocence, Barbara Earl Thomas’s solo exhibition, opens in November. 

Speaking of Barbara Earl Thomas: the artist was featured in the New York Times’ special arts section about her new work created for the SAM show; the article also discusses a major show for Bisa Butler, who along with Thomas is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery in New York. 

Local News

The Seattle Times’ Megan Burbank reviews Wa Na Wari’s new exhibition, Story Porch, which features installations by Virginia-based artist and historical strategist Free Egunfemi Bangura.

For her weekly editor’s letter, Crosscut’s Brangien Davis leans into Halloween, highlighting some spooky art to experience.

“Start peeking into your elderly neighbors’ living rooms—who knows what you might find.” The Stranger’s Jasmyne Keimig reflects on the recent exciting discovery of a missing Jacob Lawrence panel. Part of the artist’s Struggle series, the panel will be on view next spring at SAM

“I particularly love the mess of hands and feet on both sides of the work; the rebel farmers’ messy hair and their big, blocky hands; the bright red blood against the scene’s muted tones. Like with a lot of Lawrence’s work, you benefit from a long, good look.”

Inter/National News

Hyperallergic on why New York Magazine commissioned 48 artists to design “I voted” stickers, including Amy Sherald, David Hammons, Barbara Kruger, Hank Willis Thomas, and more.

The New York Times has recommendations for staycations in six American cities; a walk in SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park is included in the tips for Seattle.

Artnet’s Sarah Cascone reports on the ongoing controversy around the Baltimore Museum of Arts’ planned sale of artworks from its collection; last week, the museum pulled the works from auction just hours prior to the sale and after the Association of Art Museum Directors offered clarification on their guidelines.

“‘I recognize that many of our institutions have long-term needs—or ambitious goals—that could be supported, in part, by taking advantage of these resolutions to sell art,’ [AAMD board of trustees president Brent Benjamin] wrote. ‘But however serious those long-term needs or meritorious those goals, the current position of AAMD is that the funds for those must not come from the sale of deaccessioned art.’”

And Finally

The most sacred right

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

Image: Installation view of City of Tomorrow: Jinny Wright and the Art That Shaped a New Seattle at the Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Natali Wiseman.