You can't miss this downtown art museum. Just look for Jonathon Borofsky's Hammering Man, an animated three-story steel sculpture that pounds out a silent beat in front of the museum. Inside, you'll find one of the nation's premier collections of Northwest Coast Indian art and artifacts and an equally large collection of African art. Exhibits cover European and American art ranging from ancient Mediterranean works to pieces from the medieval, Renaissance, and baroque periods. A large 18th-century collection and a smaller 19th-century exhibition lead up to a 20th-century collection that includes a room devoted to Northwest contemporary art.
Seattle Art Museum operates several facilities, including the main Art Museum in downtown Seattle, the Seattle Asian American Art Museum in Volunteer Park, the Olympic Sculpture Garden on the north end of the Seattle waterfront, and a gallery and art rental and sales facility one block from the main art museum. This tip is focused on the main Seattle Art Museum in downtown.
You will see the abbreviation SAM everywhere, and naturally SAM = Seattle Art Museum.
The museum is extremely close to the Pike Place Market. The museum is extremely easy to access via transit, and there is at least one fairly good sized parking garage near the museum. However, I severely suggest coming by public transit, as both driving and parking in downtown Seattle can be more of a hassle than getting around by transit. Almost all bus routes that go to downtown Seattle go near the museum, and access to the transit tunnel (longer distance bus routes and the LINK light rail line) are about 1 block away - about as close as any parking garage except the one built into the museum itself.
Please take time to carefully look at the museum hours for the day you plan to visit. Generally, the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except if there is a special popular exhibit the museum may be open until 9 at night due to the number of people visiting. Certain Thursday evenings also see the museum open until 9 at night. Therefore, if you are having trouble determining how to cram everything you want to see into a few days, these extended museum hours on certain days may be vital to fitting a visit to this museum into the puzzle.
Perhaps the must visible landmark of the museum is "Hammering Man", which is a huge metal sculpture that (when the sculpture is working properly) moves a hammer back and forth like a blacksmith. This sculpture sits at one of the major entrances to the musem, at 1st Avenue and University. However, this entrance is NOT considered the "Main Entrance" to the museum. Instead, the main entrance is considered to be at 1st Avenue and Union Street, one block north of "Hammering Man" and the doors beneath his feet. You will sometimes hear the sculpture referred to as "Hammering Sam" and while this may seem to be an appropriate name, since SAM is the Seattle Art Museum, the fact is that "Hammering Man" is actually owned by the city of Seattle rather than the Seattle Art Museum, and so there are those who insist on the name "Hammering Man" as "Hammering Sam" makes it sound as though the sculpture is owned by the museum.
Or something like that. In any event, if you call it "Hammering SAM" people will know what you are talking about, but people intimately familiar with the museum or the city of Seattle might get upset.
UPDATE: Hammering Man has recently been repaired, and is now operating again, as of early 2010. To prove it, I have uploaded a short video of Hammering Man taken in April of 2010.
Starting at the bottom level of the museum, assuming that you have missed the main entrance and entered at the Hammering Man" sculpture:
Level 1 of the Museum has an entry hall called "South Hall". To the right, there is a fairly large auditorium for special shows, a smaller lecture hall, and a fairly small "Nordstrom Art Studio". Also to the right is a staircase up to a series of smaller galleries on Level 2. To the left of the entrance, there are stairs and escalators to the tecketing lobby on the 2nd Level of the museum. Past the escalators are SAM Taste Museum Restaurant and SAM Shop Museum Store.
Thanks to the museum being built on a hill (like most of Seattle is) the main entrance to the museum is halfway between Level 1 and Level 2. This "level 1.5" only consists of Sarkowsky Hall, which along with being the designated main entrance features the coat check area (mandatory for large bags of any sort), the information desk, and the entrance to the museum's parking garage. The coat check is free, but a donation is asked.
Level 2 of the museum consists of the Brotman Forum, which is the hall where the ticket desks are located. You can't miss this room: is the one whith the suspended Ford Taurauses have been turned into giant light stars hanging from the ceiling. However, it is easy to overlook the Forum Gallery and other rooms on the south side of the museum. Certain special exhibits and speakers may be found there, and the Forum Gallery to the right of the ticket counter regularly features exhibits, but because it isn't part of the paid admission part of the museum, it is very easy to miss it.
Levels 3 and 4 require museum admission, and include some 20 named galleries. Art includes both permanent collections and visiting shows. Among the permanent collections are works of Native Americans (both North and South), Australians, Africans, and Europeans. The Knudsen Family Room on level 3 and the Lockwood Foundation Living Room on level 4 are designed to help people interact with the museum's collection, in some ways as a complete family.
Providing information on most levels of the museum are scattered video kiosks and a complimentary audio guide system that may be obtained from the ticket booth.
Level 5 is dedicated to special visitors of the museum: the Bullitt Library features and extensive collection (some 20,000 volumes) for those needing to do further research, particularly with artists or works that are specializations of the Seattle Art Museum.
As the museum is quite extensive, you may wish to take part in one of the 30 minute or 60 minute public tourst of the museum that are offered, or if you are part of a group of 10 or more adults, it is possible to arrange a private tour - with reduced museum admissions, but also a tour fee.
Don't try to take the entire museum in at a rush, so as to make the $15 admissions fee worth the time you spend here.
I think the Seattle Art Museum is a good general art museum, but I enjoy art. There is more spectacular Asian art than Western, I recall. However, this summer (2008) the museum is hosting a show on Impressionism, which should be popular with most people. I also like the Frye art museum, but check its website to see whether the particular shows up during your visit will interest you. (I've seen some shows there that I loved and others that didn't interest me.) It used to focus on contemporary figurative art, but its website suggests that it is now featuring contemporary art in general.
The Seattle Asian Art Museum is an outstanding museum located in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill. The exhibits feature ancient Buddhist sculpture and artifacts as well as contemporary Chinese and Japanese art. I loved how informative descriptions of the artist and technique were posted by every piece so that I could understand what I was seeing. The huge stone camels at the entrance are also an excellent photo opportunity. Try to go on the first Thursday or Saturday of the month, when admission is free. Regular admission is only $5. Parking is free throughout the park.
Just a minute away from HI Seattle I stumbled upon the Seattle Art Museum. It was free and open late on that Thursday night and I knew about a special Glass Exhibit from JetlagCity so I ventured in.
I only had 15 minutes until closure but got to see the great exhibit. No pictures with or without flash were allowed unfortunately :-(
You won't miss the site if you see the massive exhibit right outside the museum as seen in this picture I provided.
There was a neat little gift shop there as well. If you are really into art and much more knowledgeable than I am you will enjoy this site. Great architechure as well.
Seattle Art Museum, Downtown
If you are art lover you should give SAM
(Seattle Art Museum) a visit.. you wont be disappointed. :)
General Admission Prices:
$5 children ages 7–17, students with ID and seniors 62 and over
Free to children 6 and under
The Seattle Art Museum (or SAM as it is usually referred to) was started in 1933 with the donation of Dr. Richard Fuller's Asian art collection that he had amassed from his personal travels.
Eventually the Seattle Art Museum expanded so much that it split to form another organization, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, located in Volunteer Park.
At the downtown museum location (100 University Street) there are African art, Modern art, European paintings and Native American art of the Pacific Northwest on display.
The massive 48-foot tall, 26,000 pound 'Hammering Man' greets visitors at the museum's entrance.
Both sites have more than 21,000 works of art representing artistic expression from around the globe.
Hours of Operation:
Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ~ Tuesday through Sunday.
On Thursday, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 9 a.m.
(Closed on Mondays, Martin Luther King Day, President's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day).
~ Adults, $7;
~ Seniors, students with identification, $5.
~ (1st Thursday of each month is free to all visitors.)
~ For seniors (62 yrs. plus), the 1st Friday of the month is Free.
~ Free tours of the museum are available.
~ For museum membership: ($50 per year/ $28 for seniors and students).
The Seattle Art Museum's downtown location is located between the Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square. You can't miss it. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 children ages 7–17 and students with ID and seniors 62 and over, free to children 6 and under, and free to members. There are also free days.
Seattle Art Museum
Lots of great exhibits come to town and can been seen at the SAM. In the front you'll see a 48 foot steel silhoutte of a man hammering at something unseen, which has become one of the most interpreted works of art in the city.
Visit the Seattle Art Museum! This is a modern art museum...therefore one should realize that the exhibits change frequently and you may not be impressed with the current features! But take the chance!
This museum wasn't here when I lived in Seattle...bummer...but, I take every visit as an opportunity to spend a couple of hours in this great spot! It is even a nice spot to sit outside and people watch!
The Seattle Art Museum, SAM for short, has a pretty small, but wonderfully diverse collection of art. Well worth a few hours or even an entire day.
Good collection of African and Northwest Native American art. (I like the sculpture outside better than inside though).