Seattle Art Museum
art museum in Seattle, Washington



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Seattle Art Museum
art museum in Seattle, Washington
Average: 5 (1 vote)

1300 First Ave.
Seattle, Washington
United States

More about Seattle Art Museum

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Located just a fish throw’s away from the iconic Pike’s Place Marketplace and housing a comprehensive collection of regional and world art, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is the premier center for fine art in the Pacific Northwest.

Founded in 1933 by the President of the Seattle Fine Arts Society, Richard E. Fuller and his mother Margaret MacTavish Fuller, SAM is a monument to Seattle’s nickname “The City of Goodwill.” You see our man Fuller was full of generosity as well as a deep love for the arts. I mean deep… this beloved citizen was president of both the Western Association of Art Museum Directors, the National Association of Art Directors and a member of the International Council of Museums. Where did this ardor for art come from? Well, his father was a successful surgeon who enjoyed spending his money traveling with his family to deepen their understanding of the world. A trait he likely picked up from his broadminded ancestor, feminist icon and transcendentalist sweetheart Margaret Fuller. WheniRIchard received his inheritance he continued traveling with his mother and collecting art from around the globe, some of which he would donate along with $250,000 to start SAM.

The plans for SAM were introduced at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair in an effort “to give concrete proof to the existence in the Pacific Northwest of a public recognizing the importance of art” and show that the region wasn’t only “inhabited…by people who balance peas on their knives and fight Indians.” The museum not only succeeded in this mission but under Fuller’s eye became a haven for local artists who he would give jobs between commissions so they could live. Did I mention he never accepted a salary during his 40 year run as Director of SAM? He was truly a gem in the Emerald City.

Originally located on Seattle’s Volunteer Hill the museum was moved to a new location in 1991. Its large collection of Asian art was kept in the original location becoming the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) while the rest of the art was moved downtown to the new building designed by acclaimed architect Robert Charles Venturi Jr., best known for his rejection of modernism’s “less is more” claiming instead that “less is a bore.” Based on the awesomeness museum’s epic “Art Ladder”, the grand-staircase leading to the main galleries, we couldn’t agree with Venturi more.

Other fun facts to impress your friends:

  • Bill Gate’s step-mother, Mary “Mimi” Gates was once the museum’s director.

  • SAM was involved in the first lawsuit against a U.S. museum to return art stolen by the Nazis: The Matisse painting Odalisque was returned with overall approval by the museum board to the Rosenberg family after they filed suit in 1997.

  • In addition to SAM and SAAM the museum also runs the Olympic Sculpture Park which is free to the public and houses huge sculptures great for photo ops.

  • Admission is “suggested” so if you can’t afford the admission after drinking all that Starbucks then just pay what you can!

  • If you feel bad about not paying the "suggested" price and don't want to just waltz through the doors visit on the first Thursday of every month when it's totally free to the public with half off their special exhibits. Hours are even extend to 9pm on Thursdays.



  1. Paula Becker, “Fuller, Dr. Richard Eugene (1897-1976),” January 1st, 2005. Accessed March 29th, 2017.
  2. Timothy Egan, “Museum By Venturi Opens in Seattle,” New York Times. December 10th, 1991. Accessed March 29th, 2017.
  3. Paul Keskeys, “ Architecture’s Eternal Debate: ‘Less is More’ v. ‘Less Is a Bore,’” Architizer. June 24th, 2016. Accessed March 29th, 2017.
  4. Sheila Farr, “Seattle Art Museum gets $1 billion infusion of art,” Seattle Times. March 30th, 2007. Accessed March 29th, 2017.
  5. Felicia R. Lee, “Seattle Museum to Return Looted Work,” The New York Times. June 16th, 1999. Accessed March 29th, 2017.
  6. “Visit,” Seattle Art Museum. Accessed March 29th, 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Seattle Art Museum

The Seattle Art Museum (commonly known as "SAM") is an art museum located in Seattle, Washington, United States. It operates three major facilities: its main museum in downtown Seattle; the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, and Olympic Sculpture Park on the central Seattle waterfront, which opened in January 2007.


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).

Richard E. Fuller, president of the Seattle Fine Arts Society, was the animating figure of SAM in its early years. During the Great Depression, he and his mother, Margaret MacTavish Fuller, donated $250,000 to build an art museum in Volunteer Park on Seattle's Capitol Hill. The city provided the land and received ownership of the building. Carl F. Gould of the architectural firm Bebb and Gould designed an Art Deco/Art Moderne building for the museum, which opened June 23, 1933. The Art Institute collection formed the core of the original SAM collection; the Fullers soon donated additional pieces. The Art Institute was responsible for managing art activities when the museum first opened. Fuller served as museum director into the 1970s, never taking a salary.

SAM joined with the National Council on the Arts (later NEA), Richard Fuller, and the Seattle Foundation (in part, another Fuller family endeavor) to acquire and install Isamu Noguchi's sculpture Black Sun in front of the museum in Volunteer Park. It was the NEA's first commission in Seattle. In 1983–1984, the museum received a donation of half of a downtown city block, the former J. C. Penney department store on the west side of Second Avenue between Union and Pike Streets. They eventually decided that this particular block was not a suitable site: that land was sold for private development as the Newmark Building, and the museum acquired land in the next block south. On December 5, 1991, SAM reopened in a $62 million downtown facility designed by Robert Venturi. The next year, one of Jonathan Borofsky's Hammering Man sculptures was installed outside the museum as part of Seattle City Light's One Percent for Art program.Hammering Man would have been installed in time for the museum's opening, but on September 28, 1991, as workers attempted to erect the piece, it fell, was damaged, and had to be returned to the foundry for repairs.Hammering Man was used in a guerrilla art installation on Labor Day in 1993 when Jason Sprinkle and other local artists attached a 700 lb (320 kg) ball and chain to the leg of the sculpture. In 1994, the Volunteer Park facility reopened as the Seattle Asian Art Museum. In 2007, the Olympic Sculpture Park opened to the public, culminating an 8-year process. In 2017, the Seattle Asian Art Museum closed for a two year $54 million renovation and expansion project. The museum reopened February 8, 2020.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Seattle Art Museum.