Seattle Art Museum

1300 1st Ave Seattle

Must See Museums of Seattle/Seattle Art Museum
Written By VAMONDE Seattle

Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum, commonly known as "SAM", is an art museum located in downtown Seattle. The museum maintains three major buildings: its main museum; the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, and the open Olympic Sculpture Park on the Seattle waterfront.


SAM traces its origins to two initial arts organizations: the Seattle Fine Arts Society (started in 1905) and the Washington Arts Association (started in 1906). By1931, these two groups had merged and the organization was renamed the Art Institute of Seattle. The Art Institute housed its collection in Henry House, the former home of the founder of the Henry Art Gallery, Horace C. Henry.

Richard E. Fuller, president of the Seattle Fine Arts Society, was the animating figure of SAM in its early years. During the Great Depression, he and his mother, Margaret MacTavish Fuller, donated $250,000 to build an art museum in Volunteer Park on Seattle's Capitol Hill. The city provided the land and received ownership of the building. The Art Institute collection formed the core of the original SAM collection; the Fullers soon donated additional pieces. Fuller served as museum director into the 1970s, never taking a salary.

The SAM collection has grown from 1,926 pieces in 1933 to nearly 25,000 as of 2008. The SAM moved from its location in Capitol Hill to its present location in the late 1900s.


As of the early 2000s, notable items in the collection include the following works: Alexander Calder's Eagle (1971) Richard Serra's Wake (2004) Cai Guo-Qiang's Inopportune: Stage One (2004), a sculpture constructed from cars and sequenced multi-channel light tubes on display in the lobby of the main museum The Judgment of Paris (c. 1516-18) by Lucas Cranach the Elder Mark Tobey's Electric Night (1944) Yéil X'eenh (Raven Screen) (c. 1810), attributed to the Tlingit artist Kadyisdu.axch' Do-Ho Suh's Some/One (2001) While SAM's collections of modern and ethnic art are notable, its collection of more-traditional European painting and sculpture is quite limited, and the museum relies on traveling exhibitions rather than its own collection to fill this gap. Nevertheless, there are early Italian paintings by Dalmasio Scannabecchi, Puccio di Simone, Giovanni di Paolo, Luca Di Tomme, Bartolomeo Vivarini, and Paolo Uccello. There are paintings by V. Sellaer, Jan Molenaer, Emanuel De Witte, Luca Giordano, Luca Carlevaris, Armand Guillaumin, and Camille Pissarro as well.

Return of looted art

The museum returned a painting by Henri Matisse to the heirs of 1930s French-Jewish impressionist and post-impressionist art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, that had been looted by Nazis in World War II. According to author Héctor Feliciano, this was only the second instance in the US of a museum returning looted art.

Main Museum Space

The museum's main collection is available in a building on First Avenue in downtown Seattle The building is a limestone-covered rectangle with a streak of tile and terra cotta around its outside. The museum expanded this space starting in 2006. This expansion was completed in 2008.

Admission to the SAM's exhibits is free on the first Thursday of each month; SAM also offers free admission the first Saturday of the month. Even the normal admission is a suggested amount, meaning that the museum would like visitors to pay the complete admission but a visitor can pay what they are able to and can still enjoy the museum.

Explore SAM today!

All information sourced from Wikipedia. Cover photo credit to Joe Mabel and sourced from Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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