Seattle Art Museum, Washington, USA

Posted on June 17, 2012 by


Seattle Art Museum had been on my radar for a while and didn’t disappoint, I can only cover parts of their extensive exhibits here but hopefully you’ll enjoy the pictures…

Cai Guo-Qiang‘s – Inopportune: Stage One (2004)

As soon as you enter the museum you’re hit with the installation pictured above. There are 9 life size cars suspended from the ceiling almost as if they’re exploding through the entrance hall, each has tubes arranged from the centre with lights that go in sequence like sparks flying out. It’s part of the museum’s permanent collection and provides a very dramatic introduction to the space.

This was some of the Native & Meso-American artwork on display which I find striking. The traditional designs are so strong and when you read about the representation of the animals it gets interesting. The 2 large posts (Arthur Shaughnessy, 1907) are taken from a house in British Columbia, Canada, and depict the lineage of the family that lived there. The supernatural thunderbird represents power and strength, here it is seen perching on a crouching bear.

Ebba Rapp’s The Rumor (1946-52) is on show as a part of the American Arts in the 1930s and 1940s exhibition. It immediately drew my attention, I always love art that makes me smile and the expressions on their faces gave me a chuckle.

Mika Tajima – ‘After the Martini Shot’ (2011)

Tajima’s multi-media installation brings art to an intellectual level. Artworks taken from storage have been placed in the structure pictured above depicting their transience. The room has no focal point and there are various things demanding attention such as videos and music playing, this is a very unfamiliar exhibit and whilst I appreciate the concept I didn’t find it very enjoyable.

Picturing the Artist was a photographic display of images of some of the 20th century’s most famous artists. My favourites were some shots from the 80’s, some great haircuts.

Theaster Gates – The Listening Room

Wonderful. One thing about museums that sometimes bothers me is that there is no music. At the centre of  Theaster Gate’s installation is a collection of vinyl albums from the 60s, 70s and 80s which reflect cultural and social currents, when I walked in there was some sweet soul music playing which brought my heartbeat down and forced me to linger. Loved it. Here are some words from the man himself…

“How do we continue to make meaning inside and outside of the dominant forms of meaning-making that bombard us? The Listening Room allows us space to reflect and digest the legacies of culture-making inside a larger meta-spatial engagement. I am asking the museum to make new kinds of space for me – space for my family and friends, space for non-museum people, space for music and relaxing. I want people to come to the space and find parts of themselves lost.”

Theaster Gates

Amen to that.

Do Ho Suh – Some/One (2001)

The Burden of History exhibition has some thrilling works, all telling a story of the artist’s cultural past and how this has effected them. Some/One pictured above is made of dog tags which represent individuals, although when you look closely they are just printed with nonsense, they make up a huge coat of armour symbolising fallen soldiers. Do Ho Suh is of Korean decent living in America and created the piece to investigate the individual vs collective identity.

Jeff Koons – St John the Baptist (1988)

As far as I’m concerned you just can’t beat a bit of kitsch religious imagery.

The biggie at the Seattle Art Museum until September 12th 2012 is Australian Aboriginal Art, largely spiritual in nature, the Aboriginals pass down rituals and histories through the visual arts. The Aboriginals descended from the first peoples to arrive in Australia as much 50,000 years ago. One of the best parts of the exhibition are the videos playing Aboriginal traditional dance which sets the scene at the entrance to the show. We were unable to take pictures, so I have borrowed some of my favourite pieces from other websites.

Dennis Nona’s – Sesserae (Image taken from

Sesserae relates the epic ancestral story of a willy-wagtail bird on Badu Island, a narrative that goes to the heart of the importance of story-telling as a way of cultural survival. The story reveals rich and intricate details of community, social and cultural significance, including the application and transfer of knowledge about constellations, weather patterns and animal behaviours, to food sourcing and preparation, and application of customary laws.” Quote from

Maringka Baker’s ‘Minyma Kutjara (Two Sisters)’ – Image taken from taken from

The bold colours in this piece grabbed my attention. Baker has always lived in remote communities and is the custodian of the story of Two Sisters, Kuru Ala and Kungkarrakalpa. The picture above shows the two sisters travelling on a long tough journey through a vast landscape.

Here I am at the end of my epic journey round the Seattle Art Museum, waiting for my sister to return from the bathroom. If you’re ever in town its a fun place with a lot of energy and some colourful exhibits.

Admission: Adult $17 (free on 1st Thursday of the month)

Location: 1300 First Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101, USA