Seattle is home to five major art museums, more than 100 commercial art galleries and at least a dozen nonprofit art galleries, giving this city a lot of street cred in the art world. Local glass blower Dale Chihuly also put the area on the map for his colorful glass sculptures often reminiscent of jellyfish and other sea creatures from the Pacific Northwest. Plus, the city was one of the first in the nation to start a program that integrates art into public projects, which offer visitors unexpected art as they explore the area. The Olympic Sculpture Park is just one example where visitors can explore free art all year long. While these five noteworthy art museums aren’t always free, art lovers will be sure to enjoy them.
The Seattle Art Museum or SAM, as the locals call it, is home to thousands of artworks from various time periods and cultures around the world. Its collection of Native American art is particularly impressive, with several colorful wooden sculptures and masks exhibited aside woven baskets and rugs. SAM also displays rotating exhibits such as William Cordova’s Machu Picchu After Dark, an installation that uses discarded speaker boxes to showcase about 200 1970–1980s-era Peruvian speakers that pay homage to the pre-Columbian masterpiece for which the art installation is named.
Part of the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Asian Art Museum (or SAAM) is located in the 1933 Art Moderne building, which originally housed the Seattle Art Museum’s main collection. The entire museum is dedicated to Asian artwork, focusing on historical works that include rock carvings from India, stonework from China and silk screens from Japan. It also offers public programs by the Gardner Center, which include discussions and author events that teach visitors about Asia’s cultural traditions and contemporary issues happening abroad. Visitors shouldn’t leave before hopping on the camel statue outside for a quintessential photo op.
The Frye Art Museum debuted in 1952 as the legacy of Charles and Emma Frye, prominent 20th century Seattle business leaders and art collectors. Since then, late-19th and early-20th century European paintings from the Frye Founding Collection have been on display. The collection comprises 232 paintings, including "Sin," a painting of a nude female with a snake wrapped around her neck. Rotating exhibitions are also on display, with past exhibits featuring several artworks from Franz von Stuck, the renowned Symbolist painter who painted "Sin."
Photo via their official FB page.
The University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery houses exhibitions, collections and public programs that are all related to contemporary artwork, making it the only museum dedicated to contemporary artwork in the region. The museum is an active part of the university community, helping stimulate creative research and teaching. In fact, the museum offers rotating education projects on display that complement each of its current exhibitions. The Henry’s permanent collection includes more than 25,000 artworks, which grew from the original 172 that Horace C. Henry donated to construct the city’s first public art museum in 1926.
No trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass. Local glass blower Dale Chihuly is one of the most noteworthy in his field, with work in more than 200 museum collections worldwide. The art space that doubles as a community gathering place consists of an exhibition hall, a garden space and a glass house, which serves as the project’s centerpiece. Chihuly, himself, chose artworks from his career and also created new sculptures to fill the space. The glass house is truly striking with a suspended, 1,400-piece, 100-foot long sculpture made of colorful pink, green and yellow hues.