Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is one museum with three locations: the Olympic Sculpture Park, SAM downtown and the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. SAM connects art to life through special exhibitions, educational programs and installations drawn from its collection of approximately 25,000 objects. Through its three sites, SAM presents a global perspective, collecting and exhibiting objects from 140 cultures and exploring the connections between the past and present.
From its early 20th-century roots as the Seattle Fine Arts Society to its growth into an internationally renowned museum, the Seattle Art Museum has evolved into a vital Seattle institution. The museum was founded by Dr. Richard E. Fuller, who traveled extensively collecting Japanese and Chinese art in the early 1900s. In 1931 he gave the City of Seattle $250,000 to build and maintain the art deco building in Volunteer Park that would become the Seattle Art Museum, and, in 1933 the Seattle Art Museum opened to the public. Dr. Fuller, who directed SAM for its first 40 years, donated much of his own collection and established the depth of the collection in East Asian Art and American Art Deco. He was instrumental in acquiring important works by contemporary Northwest artists such as Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and Kenneth Callahan.
With the success of several exhibitions, SAM leaders were encouraged to expand beyond the original Volunteer Park facility, and a 150,000-square-foot facility designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown was built on the west edge of Seattle’s downtown. The new museum opened in late 1991 as the Seattle Art Museum and served as a catalyst for the ongoing revitalization of downtown Seattle. The original museum building in Volunteer Park was renovated and reopened in 1994 as the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The Robert Venturi-designed building was later expanded by Portland’s Allied Works Architecture, and, in 2007, the Seattle Art Museum’s downtown location was reopened with an elegant, contemporary design that opens the museum up to the city, connecting street activity to the life inside the museum.
A third venue – the Olympic Sculpture Park – also opened in 2007 to showcase large-scale, outdoor sculpture and to connect art to the surrounding environment. Through a historic partnership with the national land-conservation organization the Trust for Public Land, SAM had purchased the last remaining undeveloped property on Seattle’s central waterfront in 1999. The nine-acre waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park features works by Richard Serra, Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg, Louise Bourgeois and others, and has won more than 18 awards regionally, nationally and internationally, recognizing the park’s design and environmental stewardship as models for future waterfront development projects and public/private partnerships.