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Chiyo Ishikawa. Photo: Scott Areman.

Seattle Art Museum Curator Chiyo Ishikawa to Retire after Thirty Years

Chiyo Ishikawa, the deputy director for art and curator of European painting and sculpture at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), announced that she will retire in the summer of 2020. “It has been my honor and pleasure to work for an institution that so fully embraces its civic responsibility to serve our community,” Ishikawa said. “After thirty years, it seems a good time to turn this wonderful opportunity over to someone new.”

Ishikawa joined the museum in 1990 as a part-time assistant curator of European painting, one year prior to the opening of its downtown location. During her tenure, she curated numerous exhibitions, including “Impressionism: Paintings Collected by European Museums” (1999); “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris” (2010), which set an attendance record for the museum that has yet to be broken; “Gauguin & Polynesia; An Elusive Paradise” (2012); and “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style” (2016). Ishikawa has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French minister of culture and the Order of Isabel la Católica from King Juan Carlos of Spain for cocurating “Spain in the Age of Exploration 1492–1819” (2004). 

After she assumed the role of deputy director of art in 2005, Ishikawa’s role expanded. She began overseeing the museum’s artistic program—including acquisitions, collection installations, and special exhibitions. In 2008, for SAM’s seventy-fifth anniversary, she helped lead a major acquistion initiative, which grew its permanent collection by one thousand artworks. Most recently, Ishikawa helped realize the curatorial vision for the renovated and expanded Asian Art Museum, which reopened on February 8 with the exhibitions “Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art” and “Boundless: Stories of Asian Art.” Ishikawa is also an adjunct professor in the department of the history of art at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Commenting on her departure, Amada Cruz, SAM’s director and CEO, said: “Our doors will always be open to Chiyo. My hope is that she will become bored in retirement and will want to organize special exhibitions for us from time to time. Her impact on SAM and on Seattle is beyond measure.”

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