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Label: seattle

Friday 11th April 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 8: Seattle

When most people think of Seattle, they think of beautiful forests, the Space Needle, and the birthplace of the Starbucks coffee franchise. If they're a bit older, they might think of famous bands that rose out of the grunge music scene in the early 1990s (Nirvana, anyone?). But the Pacific Northwest has been home to great artists for hundreds, if not thousands of years, as the huge number of galleries in Seattle and the surrounding area show. If 'thousands of years' throws you off, then you're forgetting the fact that various Native tribes have inhabited the Pacific Northwest long before Europeans ever showed up. Fortunately, a number of artifacts that might otherwise have been lost have been preserved in an impressive showcase of Native artwork found in galleries throughout the region.

Seattle itself is home to several world-class art galleries, chief among which is the Seattle Art Museum, or 'SAM' as it is affectionately known. Interestingly, the museum's collection is rather light on the traditional European works that many of us are used to encountering in art galleries, despite having a large collection overall. This gap in their repertoire tends to be filled by temporary travelling exhibitions, which makes for an interesting experience no matter when you happen to visit, but the regular collection contains an impressive array of Native artwork.

One of the museum's Matisse paintings was subject of quite the controversy in the late 1990s, when it came to light that the piece had actually been looted by the Nazis during World War II and sold to the museum under false pretenses by a gallery, who they later successfully sued. This may partially explain their aversion to classical European works, but the result is a pleasantly different gallery experience.

One of the SAM's satellite galleries, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, now housed in the old SAM building, features a number of beautiful collections from all throughout Asia, ranging from Chinese pottery to Indian portraiture to Thai statuary, with a nice blend of works by contemporary Asian artists as well. Perhaps unique in North America, there is also an extensive collection of artwork by Australian aboriginal peoples.

If these galleries don't appeal, the natural beauty of Seattle and its vibrant artistic traditions have called a huge number of artists to the city, and a number of commercial galleries have sprung up in response to the demand. A huge number of them are concentrated in an area of the city known as Pioneer Square, cheek to jowl with a number of small artists studios which are also occasionally open to the public.

Posted on April 11th 2014 on 02:30pm
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