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Seattle Art Museum - 30 Reviews - 100 University St, Seattle, WA - Art Museums Reviews - Phone (206) 654-3100

Seattle Art Museum

100 University St
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 654-3100
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Seattle Art Museum, located downtown inthe business district, has some amazing works of art to see. Hammering Man, who accents the entrance is only a tease of what's inside. Every...


For instance, the website advertises their Warhol and Lichtenstein collection. However, they only have one or two works of each artist in reality. Wait for traveling exhibits and...

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the downtown Seattle Art Museum summer 2007 (with addition) 7/8/2007

With the new addition on Union Street of the Washington Mutual Tower, the Seattle Art Museum adds two floors of galleries to the original (ca. 1994) post-modernist building by architect Robert Venturi. And the surprise is that what used to be a fairly limited collection now has covers most areas of world art, including first and foremost American modern and contemporary art. Unfortunately, when I went Edward Hopper's "Chop Suey" had not been installed. But there was a representative Georgia O'Keefe as well as paintings by other major names (Jasper Johns, Motherwell, Rothko, Pollock, de Koening). And a "Bird in Motion" by Brancusi, that I believe I saw 30 years ago at the Seattle Center annex. In view towards the $1 billlion in artworks promised to the Museum on the eve of its 75th anniversary, there are various "stations" where one can see a continuous closed circuit of videos with some of the major donors/collectors. And in a nod to American colonial art, a Samuel Singleton Copley (this is not even Boston or Philadelphia!) painting hung pride of place at the entrance to one of the rooms devoted to American art. What was pleasantly surprising to find were two medium-to-large Italian Renaissance tondos, one by Botticelli, "Madonna of the Magnificat" (a version on loan from the Paul Allen collection, the more famous version is in the Uffizi in Florence), with superlative bright deep cerulean blues and crimson reds and jewel-like clarity of design. The significance of--the iconography of--this painting is not explained in the label. Nice, too, to have small but fascinating collections of Egyptian, Roman and Islamic art. I'm not whether the famous Japanese "Deer Scroll" or the Black Crows (on a gold background) folding screen are on "short-term loan" from the Seattle Asian Art Museum. And what ever happened to the Grand Staircase (with Chinese Ming dynasty rams and warriors) in the Venturi building? One criticism I have is that the organization of the two floors is confusing. As the museum does not have separate wings to house the different "departments," one wanders from room to room without a sense of connection or flow. more

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Olympic Sculpture Garden 6/15/2007

Part natural area (native species), part outdoors museum with a couple dozen contemporary sculptures, and part spectacular viewpoint (Elliot Bay and the Olympic mountains), this newest addition to the Seattle Art Museum also partakes of his proximity to the tourist-inflected Waterfront--hence it similarity to an amusement park--as well as to Myrtle Edwards Park (home of the 4th of July Fireworks display). Thus, it tries to be many things to different people. The sculptures--mostly by very well known names in contemporary American art--tend to be easy to overlook and hard to find, as they blend into the surroundings. But Alexander Calder's "Eagle," which used to be be on the front lawn of the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park--where it was completely out-of-place--benefits greatly from its new surroundings and takes on a breathtaking aesthetic significance. Tony Smith's "Wandering Rocks" are largely lost in a small wooded area. Richard Serra's "Wake" has a large "courtyard" to itself and is meant to be walked through and next to, enhancing its towering undulating curves which suggest the prow of a ship. Louise Bourgeois's "Father and Son" fountain--by its proximity to the Waterfront---has a schmaltzy quality, worsened by the literal interpretation given to it by the Museum's own publicity. Her ocular black marble "benches," likewise, lose their odd visual/tactile qualities by being placed so close to the same entrance on Alaskan Way and thus made available to pedestrians, on which they will immediately plunk themselves down. See for more representative works of Bourgeois. The "Vivarium" is difficult to find and often closed. You really need a map (available at the Paccar Pavilion, the visitors' center) to find about half of the sculptures. Part of the excitement of this park is its location, with freight trains running through it at various times of the day (or night), Elliott Avenue suddenly thrusting itself out of the ground at mid-levels. The day I went a young African-American couple was letting their four kids trample and race through the strips of delicately planted native species, even though there were signs everywhere asking people to respect the plants and to stay on the gravel path (I suppose that's the fault of white people, too). There weren't any skateboarders on the concrete areas. The park itself faces West, so a blazing afternoon sun obliterates much of the pleasure that might otherwise be had strolling in zig-zag manner down to the shore. There are metal red chairs scattered on the "viewing" terrace above the Calder. Rarely has an outdoor sculpture "garden" (though this is really a park) incorporated art into both the urban and natural environments in such a spectacular fashion (think of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in D.C.). more

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Seattle Fart Museum 5/1/2006

I'm prepared to change this post when the new and improved museum opens up but up til now, this has been the WORST museum I've been to. I've been to NYC, London, Denver, and various other places and I have always been disappointed by SAM. I stopped paying to get in because they have really small traveling exhibits and NO modern art in the permanent collection. I'm all for different cultures and their art, but in the city of Seattle there are hardly any contemporary art (big enough for the big gigs) museums. Henry Art is okay, but it's small. I look forward to the changing ways of SAM, but they better get it together. more

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A Milquetoast Museum at best. 4/8/2006

For instance, the website advertises their Warhol and Lichtenstein collection. However, they only have one or two works of each artist in reality. Wait for traveling exhibits and if you can, go on a Thursday (the first of the month) and get in free. The building is big but sparse in actual art and I do believe they are already remodeling again! Why spend more money on renovation when you can spend that hard-earned funding on drawing more great art to the museum (echoing the last Van Gogh success). more

The All Famous Hammer Man 12/24/2005

Its hammer time , all the time here in this fantastic art display museum. I have visited this place a few times and they have the amazing "every first thursday of the month, free entry". If you just want to try this place out you can visit for free! They have some amazing art with a traveling exhibit which allows you to see new things every time! The Van Gogh exhibit was amazing, just seeing something so perfect was inspiring. more

Best collection of Asian art around 12/9/2005

Even the entrance is very well maintained in this clean and quiet museum. The exhibits change often enough that everytime I go, I see something new. The guides are very well trained and educated, as they answered every question that was raised up very thoroughly. A mix of cultural collections are held here, and I would recommend this place to any art fan, history major, and those who are just interested in the Asian arts. more

Traveling art 12/9/2005

I went to the SAM when the Van Gogh works were being displayed. I was given a device that narrates and reenacts audibly, which really enhanced my learning. There were a lot of paintings, all arranged logically so that my path would follow along the timeline, yet if I wanted to, there were shortcuts that would take me to other time periods. more

Classics! 12/8/2005

Well, not really classics but great art none-the-less. Northwest art into one convient place in the middle of downtown seattle. The admission prices are great, very cheap for a date. It is very big in side and has a couple of levels of art. Some of the art is ancient, or so it seems. Catch a taxi there, and the people who work there will recommend great pieces for you to see and analyze. I had fun and would definitely do it again! more

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Seattle's Art Museum 11/23/2005

The SAM is located in the heart of downtown Seattle and is Seattle's biggest art museum. Though it cannot compare to the major metropolitan art museums that you find on the east coast the SAM does a good job keeping a rotation of good exhibits running through the museum while showing the pride they have in the museum itself. Last year there was a Van Gogh exhibit that drew a large crowd (line around the block most days). The museum pulled out all the stops including performance art to teach the museum goers more about Van Gogh. This level of pride for the museum is shown every time you visit the SAM. more

Okay, not the best, not the worst 10/8/2005

The most disappointing thing about SAM is its lack of artwork. It is a huge building with tons of space for exhibits, but the three times I've gone there, I've noticed the space is sorely lacking in artwork of any kind. The artwork that is there is choppy and not arranged in any particular order. It is my belief that putting paint on canvas does not make one an artist, although it seems that SAM does not not share this same opinion. Even local artists (whom I strongly support) need not have one whit of talent to be showcased at SAM. Their lack of discretion when choosing artwork is disconcerting to say the least. The first Thursday of every month provides free entrance to all art galleries in the city. Please, take advantage of this time and do not waste your money paying for admission. more

Lovely Art on Display 8/22/2005

Seattle Art Museum, located downtown inthe business district, has some amazing works of art to see. Hammering Man, who accents the entrance is only a tease of what's inside. Everything from master painters, to sculptures to native folk art is on display. They have quite a good African section as well. Travelling displays mean that there's always something new to see, so what are you waiting for, come get an eyeful of art! more

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SAM 8/21/2005

The Seattle Art Museum's permanent collection is decent - nothing really special, but fine for a field trip or an afternoon of wandering the galleries. The real reason to visit the art museum is the traveling collections that come through - recently they had a VanGogh exhibit as well as a Spanish painters display. more

Seattle Art Museum 8/21/2005

SAM is a good museum with interesting standard exhibitions. It's a great place to visit, but they have become stale and predictable over the past five years. It is rare when they bring in a very compelling traveling exhibit. They usually have safe exhibits that don't push the edge of modern art. I also have a personal issue with museums charging for entrance. Yes, they have a free day (first Thursday of the month), but I would rather it be free everyday. Regardless, they are worth a trip and do have great Pacific Northwest Native American exhibits that are worth a look. Otherwise, try the Frye. more

Interesting and approachable 8/20/2005

The Seattle Art Museum ("the SAM") is a gem in the city. They often have fabulous exhibits throughout the year, and their ongoing displays are well worth visiting time and time again. For art lovers and new comers alike. They make art accessible and fun. They also offer lots of open space in the building for gathering with friends to discuss what you've seen. It's completely worth an afternoon in the city! more

Funky Museum 8/20/2005

The SAM is most notable for it's tendancy to cater to the eccentric. First Thursday offers discount rates so the students and the average joe can afford some culture. They also have special events like the recent Dorkbot lecture, which featured some of the most dangerous examples of art I've ever seen. Way to go SAM. more

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Not the greatest, not the worst 8/20/2005

The BEST thing about the Seattle Art Museum is the Hammering Man statue out front. The WORST thing about the Seattle Art Museum is the Seattle Art Museum. Whenever I go there, I feel like it's trying to be one of the large European galleries, a la The Van Gogh Museum, etc. But it's not, and fails miserably. Many of the spaces are empty and just because something is made by a local artist doesn' t make it "art". The whole space is just devoid of feeling. You don't know what to expect and you get a mish-mosh of some good, some horrid examples of artwork. Perhaps if they had a bit more focus, or at least tried to create a theme or general environment, the museum as a whole would work better. As it stands, I say don't waste your money on this if you're looking for a Seattle tourist attraction. One good thing, though, is that the first Thursday of each month gives free admission to all art galleries in the city. So if you have to go, at least go when you don't have to pay to get in. more

Great Seattle Museum 8/19/2005

This is a fun place to go in downtown Seattle. I usually save my visits to coincide with a special exhibit, such as the recent Van Gogh. These special exhibits are a little crowded but the only chance to see such great works in Seattle. They have a free Thursday every month, but the line is especially long on these days. I do prefer the bigger museums in Chicago and New York, but always enjoy going here. more

Great for a rainy afternoon 8/19/2005

It's not the Louve, but you can happily spend an afternoon here enjoying the permanent collection. The often have exciting a truly unique visiting exhibits as well. The cafe has great food in a relaxing atmosphere. The gift shop has lots of goodies - check out the clearance in the loft. more

Serene setting, fantastic objects 8/18/2005

I have always enjoyed visiting the SAAM, and I really believe that the experience is enhanced by the fantastic setting in Volunteer Park and the fact that the building that allows in so much natural light. The objects on display are unquestionably beautiful, but I often wish more context was provided for what is being exhibited. So many of this objects have religious or cultural significance that go beyond simple aesthetic beauty, and sadly this is missing from the interpretation offered by the museum. That said, a visit will certainly leave you feeling calm and satisfied. more

Good Traveling Shows, Uninspired Collection 8/17/2005

SAM brings in some good traveling shows (Jacob Lawrence, Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh come to mind). Good quality shows like that every year to year and a half. But even those shows are always tasteful, somewhat boringly safe, and definitely not cutting edge, interesting or controversial. And if you are excluding such choices from your shows, what is the point? I also find the permanent collection pretty dull and uninspired. Compare the contents of this museum with say, San Francisco's, Chicago's, or LA's, and no, Seattle does not yet have a truly world class art museum. more
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  • Neighborhoods:

    Downtown, Central Business District