The Seattle Art Museum (commonly known as "SAM") is an art museum located in Seattle, Washington, USA. It maintains three major facilities: its main museum in downtown Seattle; the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the central Seattle waterfront, which opened on January 20, 2007. Admission to the sculpture park is always free. Admission to the other facilities is free on the first Thursday of each month; SAM also offers free admission the first Saturday of the month. And even the normal admission is suggested, meaning that the museum would like visitors to pay the complete admission but if they can not pay fully they can still enjoy the museum.
The SAM collection has grown from 1,926 pieces in 1933 to nearly 25,000 as of 2008. Its original museum provided an area of 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2); the present facilities provide 312,000 square feet (29,000 m2) plus a 9-acre (3.6 ha) park. Paid staff have increased from 7 to 303, and the museum library has grown from approximately 1,400 books to 33,252. SAM traces its origins to the Seattle Fine Arts Society (organized 1905) and the Washington Arts Association (organized 1906), which merged in 1917, keeping the Fine Arts Society name. In 1931 the group renamed itself as the Art Institute of Seattle. The Art Institute housed its collection in Henry House, the former home, on Capitol Hill, of the collector and founder of the Henry Art Gallery, Horace C. Henry (1844–1928).
As of June 2008, the SAM collection includes nearly 25,000 pieces. Among them are Alexander Calder's Eagle (1971) and Richard Serra's Wake (2004), both at the Olympic Sculpture Park; the aforementioned Hammering Man; Cai Guo-Qiang's Inopportune: Stage One (2004), a sculpture constructed from cars and sequenced multi-channel light tubes on display in the lobby of the SAM Downtown; The Judgment of Paris (c. 1516-18) by Lucas Cranach the Elder; Mark Tobey's Electric Night (1944); Yéil X'eenh (Raven Screen) (c. 1810), attributed to the Tlingit artist Kadyisdu.axch'; Do-Ho Suh's Some/One (2001); and a coffin in the shape of a Mercedes Benz (1991) by Kane Quaye of Ghana. While SAM's collections of modern and ethnic art are notable, its collection of more-traditional European painting and sculpture is quite thin, and the Museum relies on traveling exhibitions rather than its own collection to fill that notable gap.
Nevertheless, there are early Italian paintings by Dalmasio Scannabecchi, Puccio di Simone, Giovanni di Paolo, Luca Di Tomme, Bartolomeo Vivarini, and Paolo Uccello. There are paintings by V. Sellaer, Jan Molenaer, Emanuel De Witte, Luca Giordano, Luca Carlevaris, Armand Guillaumin, and Camille Pissarro. This museum also has a large collection of Twentieth Century American paintings by Jacob Lawrence and Mark Tobey. There is an appreciable collection of Aboriginal Australian Art.
The Seattle Art Museum contains the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library and the McCaw Foundation Library of Art.
Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library: The Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library was founded in 1991. As of 2011 it contained 20,000 books and subscribed to 100 periodicals. It specializes in African art, contemporary art, decorative ars, European art, Modern art, and photography.
McCaw Foundation Library of Asian Art: The McCaw Foundation Library of Asian Art was founded in 1933. As of 2011 it contained 15000 book volumes and subscribed to 100 periodicals. It specializes in Asian art.
Modern Art Pavilion
After the Century 21 Exposition, the fairgrounds became Seattle Center, and the UK Pavilion became the Modern Art Pavilion of the museum. It remained in use until 1987.
Seattle Asian Art Museum
The Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) has been located since 1994 in the original 1933 Deco/Moderne SAM facility in Volunteer Park on Seattle's Capitol Hill.
Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park is a 9-acre (3.6 ha) public park on the Seattle waterfront just north of downtown. It opened on January 20, 2007.
While the number of visitors has grown, the pattern is more complicated: 346,287 people visited the museum in its first year; in 1978 the traveling exhibit Treasures of Tutankhamun (shown in the facility at Seattle Center) drew 1.3 million visitors in a mere four months; 2007 attendance was 797,127. In 2010, the exhibition "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris" drew more than 405,000 people and was the museum's most-attended exhibition since it moved to its downtown location from Volunteer Park in 1991. In SAM's history, only the 1978 King Tut exhibition, held at Seattle Center, ranked higher in attendance.
Return of looted art
The museum returned a painting by Henri Matisse to the heirs of 1930s French-Jewish impressionist and post-impressionist art dealer Paul Rosenberg that had been looted by Nazis in World War II, after having requested that the family sue in order to reach a legal settlement that included another art dealer. So in October 1997, Rosenberg's family filled suit in District Court, to recover the painting Odalisque (1927 or 1928). It was the first lawsuit against an American museum concerning ownership of Nazi plunder during World War II. Then museum director Mimi Gardner Gates brokered an 11th hour settlement that returned the artwork, after which the museum sued the gallery which had sold it the painting in the 1950s. Author Héctor Feliciano said it was only the second instance in the US of a museum returning looted art.