Published: April 24, 2007
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) recently announced an unprecedented series of gifts †the largest in the museum’s history †from prominent museum patrons and collectors. The gifts, which commemorate the museum’s 75th anniversary in 2008 and represent art from across time and cultures, will include nearly 1,000 works from more than 40 collections.
The 75th anniversary acquisition initiative began with SAM’s commitment to expand its downtown site in 2001. Highlights from these gifts will be presented at SAM as part of its inaugural special exhibition and installation when SAM Downtown reopens on May 5. “SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle” will feature approximately 100 works displayed in the museum’s new exhibitions galleries, as well as 125 works integrated into the new installation of the permanent collection. In addition, gifts to the collection are included in the initial installation at the Olympic Sculpture Park and in installations at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
In a dramatic show of support, entire collections by some of the Northwest’s leading collectors have been committed over time, featuring such landmark works as Constantin Brancusi’s modern masterpiece “Bird in Space,” 1926; Ellsworth Kelly’s “Blue, Green, Red II,” 1965, and Edward Hopper’s iconic oil painting “Chop Suey,” 1929.
In addition, donors have supported major purchases for the collection, including Richard Serra’s “Wake,” 2004, at the Olympic Sculpture Park; John Singleton Copley’s portrait of “Dr Silvester Gardiner,” circa 1772, SAM’s first Eighteenth Century American painting; and “Inopportune: Stage One,” 2004, a monumental installation featuring nine automobiles by the Chinese-born contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang that will be installed in the museum’s new Brotman Forum.
Among the collections committed to SAM are: Susan and Jeffrey Brotman collection, a major international collection with a concentration of contemporary German artists such as Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke; Jane Lang collection, a nationally renowned collection of postwar painting, with signature works by major Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Clifford Still; Barney A. Ebsworth collection, one of the finest collection of early modern American art in private hands, which includes works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe and Marsden Hartley; Marshall and Helen Hatch collection of Northwest Modern art, the premier collection of Northwest masters such as Mark Tobey and Morris Graves.
Also, a group of Afikpo masquerade works field-collected in Nigeria by University of Washington professor emeritus Simon Ottenberg; Sam and Gladys Rubinstein collection of early Twentieth Century European painting, including works by Alexei Jawlensky, Robert Delaunay and Frantisek Kupka; Jon and Mary Shirley collection, which includes iconic sculptures by Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti, and particular depth in the work of Alexander Calder and Chuck Close.
Additionally, Griffith and Patricia Way collection of Modern Japanese paintings, one of the finest collections of Nihonga painting in the United States; and Virginia and Bagley Wright collection, the most extensive collection of modern and contemporary art in the Northwest. Assembled over the last 50 years, their collection includes works by artists such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Kiki Smith, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Ed Ruscha, John Chamberlain and Helen Frankenthaler.
The announcement of these gifts coincides with the physical expansion and transformation of the Seattle Art Museum. The museum recently opened the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park, the new SAM Downtown opens May 5, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park will undergo renovations in 2009.
The downtown expansion of the Seattle Art Museum will more than double the amount of gallery and public space devoted to art. As part of its unique development partnership with Washington Mutual, SAM will expand into additional space in phases in correlation with the growth in audience and collections. The museum will eventually increase in size to more than 450,000 square feet. This phased expansion will accommodate the requirements of the 75th anniversary commitments that will come to the museum over time as a result of partial/promised gifts and planned bequests.
Other highlights of the gifts, which will enhance the museum’s holdings of modern and contemporary art, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American art, European art, decorative arts and Native American art, include Alberto Giacometti’s “The Dog,” 1951, the first of the artist’s works to enter SAM’s collection; Ed Ruscha’s seminal painting “Damage,” 1964; Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s “Saint Augustine in Ecstasy,” 1665‷5.
Also, two silver tankards, dating from 1685 and 1893, that are centerpieces of the most important collection of American silver in private hands; and rare woven Northwest Coast Native basketry by Susan Wawatkin Bedal (1865‱947), the last traditional basket maker of the Sauk-Suiattle tribe, donated to SAM by her daughters.
SAM Downtown is at 100 University Street. For information, 206-654-3100 or www.seattleartmuseum.org .
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