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The preserved façade of the Asian Art Museum. Photo: Tim Griffith. Courtesy of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
The preserved façade of the Asian Art Museum. Photo: Tim Griffith. Courtesy of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Seattle Asian Art Museum Reopens after $56 Million Renovation

The Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) is reopening to the public this weekend following the completion of its two-year, $56 million expansion. The revamped museum now boasts an extension designed by the Seattle-based firm LMN Architects on its east side, which added a 2,650-square-foot gallery for special exhibitions that will be inaugurated with “Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art,” a presentation of work by twelve artists. LMN also built a new glass-enclosed lobby, a conservation studio, and rooms for educational activities, and oversaw the restoration of the building’s original sandstone facade.

The renovation enabled SAAM’s staff to reimagine the presentation of its permanent collection, comprising art from China, Korea, Japan, India, the Himalayas, and other Southeast Asian countries. “This was such a rare opportunity for us as curators,” says Foong Ping, the Foster Foundation’s curator of Chinese art. “We started from scratch, exploring new ways of envisioning Asia’s art forms in our galleries that wasn’t just according to present-day definitions of nations. The project also generated new research of our collection, which will have a deep impact on the museum.”

The expansion on the east side of the Asian Art Museum (north view). Photo: Tim Griffith. Courtesy of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Installed throughout thirteen galleries in SAAM’s historic Art Deco building, which hasn’t undergone any major refurbishments since it was constructed in 1933, the exhibition “Boundless: Stories of Asian Art” features artworks that are organized thematically around spiritual traditions, the physical body, sacred sites and texts, festivals and celebrations, precious materials, the afterlife, the natural world, visual arts and literature, color and ceramics, and clothing and identity.

The museum will begin welcoming the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 AM on Saturday, February 8, and has already received ten thousand reservations for free admission tickets for the weekend-long celebration.

Amada Cruz, director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), remarked: “We could not be more excited to open the doors of the museum and welcome everyone back. The new and refreshed galleries will display art from the collection that has never been on view before, and the resonant themes of the installation will provoke both delight and curiosity. The new connections to and views of Volunteer Park are stunning. We are grateful to the city of Seattle and the staff and supporters of SAM, as well as SAM’s retired director, Kimerly Rorschach, whose extraordinary dedication brought this project to fruition.”

Installation view of “Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art” at the Asian Art Museum. Photo: Adam Hunter/LMN Architects. Courtesy of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.