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the downtown Seattle Art Museum summer 2007 (with addition) - Review by cat c | Seattle Art Museum

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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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