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Seattle, Washington

Seattle: Art Museums

With world-class museums and thriving galleries, not to mention its famous glass-blowing studios, quirky Seattle stands out as one of the most diverse arts destinations in the world.

Seattle’s museums not only host special exhibitions on masters from Michelangelo to Warhol, but also assemble outstanding artwork from around the world in extensive permanent collections. Seattle Art Museum’s African and Native American collections deserve a visit, as do the Chinese and Japanese ceramics at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which houses one of the world’s great collections of Asian art. From historical photography at the Henry Art Gallery to European paintings at the Frye, Seattle pays homage to an extraordinary range of artistic schools and styles.

The city celebrates the arts through public artwork and plentiful cultural events. Through its “1% for art” ordinance, supporting public art with city construction budgets, Seattle has filled its plazas with striking monumental sculptures, such as Jonathan Borofsky’s 48-foot-tall Hammering Man near the Seattle Art Museum. Museums, galleries and artists’ studios open their doors for the popular First Thursday art walk in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood. Similar art walks abound in other Seattle neighborhoods, such as hipster haven Ballard, off-beat Fremont and gritty industrial Georgetown. Local crafters elevate knitting and stitching to an art form at the Northwest Folklife Festival and indie craft fair Urban Craft Uprising. The Bellevue Festival of the Arts, attracting hundreds of artists every July, is one of the country’s premiere juried art fairs.

The Seattle area also enjoys an international reputation for glass-blowing. Glass sculptor Dale Chihuly founded the famous Pilchuck Glass School in nearby Stanwood, Washington, with art patrons Anne Gould Hauberg and John Hauberg. It’s well worth a drive to Tacoma to discover the sinuous, iridescent masterpieces at the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass. (Elisa Mader, Seattle Visual Art blogger)

Seattle Art Museums: Art Museums Around Seattle

Below are our Seattle Art Museum recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, museum history and other points of interest in Seattle Art.

Bellevue Arts Museum

This museum, just outside Seattle, exhibits all manner of arts, crafts, and design work, focusing on Pacific Northwest artists. It was founded in 1975 in a schoolhouse. It moved into its current home, a larger space designed by architect Steven Holl, in downtown Bellevue to accommodate its growing collection and program offerings.

Featured objects at the museum include Etsuko Ichikawa’s glass pyrograph Traces of the Molten State, Peter Pierobon’s Chair Stack …more…

Center on Contemporary Art

The Center is a pre-eminent collection of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest. It exhibits works in all media of contemporary art. Its multiple galleries overlook the Puget Sound, offering panorama views to accompany the art.

Past exhibitions have touched on many different themes in contemporary art. They include solo shows for artists such as Haris Purnomo, Tracy Boyd, Kyle Cook and photographer Sara Skinner. Group shows have focused on outdoor …more…

Frye Art Museum

This small museum focuses on American, French, and German artists from the 19th  and 20th  centuries, including the largest collection of the 1870–1900 Munich School (Friedrich von Kaulbach, Gabriel Max) in the United States.  One of its charms is that although it’s a private museum, admission is free.  Add free parking, a cafe with good food, and a nice gift shop, and a visit here becomes a perfect way to …more…

Henry Art Gallery

The Henry Art Gallery is the oldest museum in Washington state, founded by Horace Henry in 1890. It focuses on American art, and the collection, built over the years, now has more than 23,500 objects displayed in 46,000 square feet. ...more...

Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Once you get inside the recently expanded SAM (past Jonathon Borofsky’s 48-foot-tall Hammering Man), be prepared to see one of the most extensive Northwest Coast Native American art collections in existence, as well as an equally excellent collection of African art. You’ll also find a strong selection of European and American art from across the centuries, including a first-rate Northwest contemporary collection. ...more...

Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM)

Located in the 1933 Art Moderne building that was originally home to the Seattle Art Museum, SAAM exhibits works from all Asian countries and cultures, with a special emphasis on Chinese and Japanese art.  The museum is located in the middle of the 48 acres of Volunteer Park, which makes a visit particularly nice in good weather. And in bad weather, a short stroll to the north gets you to …more…