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CURRENT COLUMN

Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
Siting an Art Museum in a Forest

Gordon Smith Gallery
November 2012
Boosting the Profile of Artists for Kids

Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Jacana Gallery
November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Satellite Gallery
September 2011
Hope springs eternal


June 2011
The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


April 2011
Education for the eye,
soul and mind


February 2011
Fine art inkjet prints
are here to stay


November 2010
SAAG endows the old
with new possibilities

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Gallery Views

By ANN ROSENBERG

Less is more in the expanded SAM

The Seattle Art Museum recently opened two amenities that augment SAM’s capacity to display its growing collections and to install special exhibitions.

The institution’s new nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park (devoted to 20 and 21st century three-dimensional works) opened in January this year. In a 35-hour-long event on May 5-6, the 90,000 square foot addition to the museum’s already-established home of its North American, European, African and Oceanic holdings became available for public viewing.

Seattle Art MuseumPortland-based architect Brad Cloepfil’s addition to Robert Venturi’s 1991 edifice provided more space for improved presentation, educational amenities, a bigger shop, a proper restaurant, and exhibiting galleries where light levels within and views to the outside could be controlled via easy to operate steel, brise soleil window shields

According to comments on the Internet, the addition is “ridiculously cool” and it “made the Venturi grand staircase work.” The title of an article by Regina Hackett – “Not a show piece, but a show place” – sums up the favourable response SAM’s 2007 addition has, on the whole, elicited.

The 1300 First Avenue exterior of Cloepfil’s extension does not make a seamless liaison with Venturi’s Post Modern composition it conjoins. It’s a contrapuntal link that’s true to Cloepfil’s own taste for a Modernism that evolved out of the Mies van der Rohe “less Is more” aesthetic. Beauty in this latter approach, results from excellent composition and use of materials.

Cloepfil’s arresting 18-storey tower is cloaked in grey steel elements and glass panels that are blue or grey under different light conditions and mirror everything that surrounds them in an ephemeral fashion. In the Venturi 14-floor building, the artistic effects are applied elements like the textured, non-reflective paneling and the fanciful striped archways which do not react with or reflect city life. The top two floors of the older edifice above those veneered with opaque cladding, are a Mies-inspired structure of mullions and glass to which Cloepfil’s entire design makes witty reference.

The new tower is the result of a clever arrangement between SAM and Washington Mutual, a bank that is making Seattle its home base. The museum occupies the lowest four floors of a building in which the financial institution owns the top four and currently rents the eight ‘gallery equipped’ storeys in between. While WaMu awaits the completion of its own 42-storey highrise next door, it has a high-profile address and SAM can progress carefully into future expansion as its bottom line permits.

The Seattle Art Museum’s new logo projects out over University Street like a handshake announcing “I am SAM.”

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic and author.

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