Seattle Art Museum

1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101, USA

Guarded by the Hammering Man sculpture outside, this superb museum collection romps from native tribal art to African masks to carvings from Oceania. Highlights include the 16th-century wood-paneled Italian Room and The Studio, a portrait of the Seattle home of Jacob Lawrence, arguably the most acclaimed African American painter of the 20th century. Check the calendar for world-class temporary exhibits, not to mention lectures, performances, film screenings, and evening SAM Remix dance parties. If you need some air, head for the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park to catch a glimpse of art in the wild. Free to visit, this green space offers stunning views of Puget Sound and the ferries trundling across it.

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Spectacular Art at SAM

Seattle’s museum trifecta—the downtown Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park—could keep even the most ardent museum lover busy for days. If you only have time for one (or if it’s too rainy to venture outdoors), the Seattle Art Museum is your best bet. Get a taste of regional culture in the Native Art and Asian Art collections, as well as the Northwest Collection. The African Art collection of masks and textile figures is both striking and haunting, and the Oceanic and Aboriginal Art collection is small but interesting. Popular permanent exhibits include the 16th-century wood-paneled Italian Room and the beloved Porcelain Room, a hodgepodge of miscellaneous china and porcelain settings arranged on the walls more for decoration than for educative purposes. In addition, the SAM offers movie screenings, lectures, musical performances, and evening DJ “SAM Remix” events. Public tours are available daily if you just want to see the highlights. Plan to spend at least half a day if you want to see the entire thing, and don’t forget to stop at the excellent (if pricey) gift shop afterward.

not always grey...

Look UP--contrary to popular perception, Seattle isn’t ALWAYS grey. There can be stretches of summer when one might almost believe (almost) that Puget Sound lies in a Mediterranean climate zone: lavender in bloom, Italian restaurants with tables set out on the sidewalks, blue skies above the skyscrapers...

Art of the First Nations at Seattle Art Museum

On a Free Thursday after dinner, the first thing that struck me was the demographic – young families congregated around long tables in the lobby working on projects while 20- and 30-somethings watched a flamenco exhibition in honor of a visiting Miró exhibition. I had seen Miró’s work several times in different cities so, with limited time, stayed focused on finding First Nations exhibits. The first employee I asked graciously escorted me to the third floor, with lively insights to the museum’s collection along the way. When I mentioned interest in Preston Singletary, she accompanied me to his works, explained how he honored ancient traditions in glass and the significance of the works across and next to his. It was only when I thanked her and commented on how lovely Seattleites had been during my brief six hours in the city that she cheerfully revealed her rather senior position at the museum. I walked away energized. While the museum had only two works by and a video about Singletary , the rest of the First Nations exhibit was stunning and I happily explored far more than I had planned, including the African and Australian Aboriginal collections and the glass collection. The Seattle Museum of Art offers free admission to the main collection on Thursdays, when it is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday.


The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) was designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. It is one of Seattle’s privately owned public spaces. The city of Seattle offered developers the right to build larger developments in return for certain public amenities. As this is not advertised, most people do not know that certain lobby space, restrooms and rooftop gardens of downtown buildings are open to the public. The lobby space of SAM is fun, light and airy – good place to catch up on email. Jonothan Borofsky’s Hammering Man towers in the front of the museum. The hammer swings back and forth from mind to heart. His original concept was to have Hammering Men, hammering all over the world. There are many indoor hammering men of different sizes. The outdoor ones are in Seoul, Frankfurt, Basel , Dallas, Los Angeles and Seattle. SAM’s cultural statement is “ we connect art to life.” Art is displayed in similar groupings while juxtaposing with different cultures and time periods. The Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park are all part of SAM. For more info go to:

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