Seattle Art Museum

At the Seattle Art Museum, one block from Pike Place Market, light-filled galleries invite you to wander through global art collections, temporary installations, and special exhibitions from around the world.  (SAM)

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Seattle is home to unrivaled natural beauty, the best coffee, a beautiful coastline, great seafood and an abundance of culture, among many other marvels. One of these is The Seattle Art Museum, commonly and fondly, known as “SAM”.

SAM maintains three major and distinct facilities: The main part of the museum is located in downtown Seattle about a mile-and-a-half south of the Space Needle, not far from Pike Place Market.

The second is The Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, and the open Olympic Sculpture Park on the central Seattle waterfront is the 3rd.


“SAM has been the center for world-class visual arts in the Pacific Northwest since 1933. It’s a museum carved into the city, as much a part of Seattle’s landscape and personality as the coffee, rain, mountains, Pike Place, and The Space Needle.”

The Seattle Art Museum houses one of America’s great global art collections, displaying everything from European masterpieces to contemporary sculpture. Collections include modern and contemporary, African, Meso-American, Ancient Mediterranean, Islamic, European, Oceanic and Australian Aboriginal, Asian, American, (Georgia O’Keefe, Jason Pollock) and decorative arts, including a nice collection of porcelain. Visitors from out of town especially enjoy the remarkable Native American galleries featuring Northwest Coast art.

SAM traces its origins to the Seattle Fine Arts Society, organized in 1905. In 1931 the group renamed itself as the Art Institute of Seattle. Over the years the museum came to fruition with donors of art, time and grants of land. In 1933 the first Seattle Art Museum was officially opened with a focus on Asian art.

In 1983, the museum received a donation of half of a downtown city block, on the west side of Second Avenue between Union and Pike Streets. They eventually decided that this particular block was not a suitable site, so the museum acquired land in the next block south.

By the late 1980s the museum had outgrown its original home, and in 1991 a new $62 million, 155,000-square-foot downtown building opened to the public. The original 1933 building was renovated and reopened as the Asian Art Museum in 1994. (This building has just finished an expansion and beautiful renovation.)

In 2007, the 9 acre Olympic Sculpture Park (a “museum without walls”) opened to the public, a process that took almost 8 years.

The SAM collection has grown from just over 1,900 pieces in 1933 to nearly 25,000 works of art from around the world.

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider


Jonathan Borofsky‘s Hammering Man sculpture was installed outside the museum. This sculpture 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 and was damaged. Consequently, it had to be returned to the foundry for repairs and was finally installed the following year.

In addition to permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, the museum offers many perks and programs …… admission on the first Thursday of every month, (Seniors can also take advantage of First Fridays, where admission is free to those ages 62 and older) Community night out, Family Fun Workshops, lectures, drop in workshops and Saturday University.

SAM Shop sells uncommon objects, contemporary design for the home, toys for kids, jewelry by local artists, art and design books, fine paper and items pertaining to the current exhibition.

SAM Gallery is the Seattle Art Museum’s art sales and rental gallery, offering hundreds of contemporary original works from Northwest artists; paintings, drawings, mixed-media works, limited-edition prints, and photographs. The gallery supports local artists and their careers by increasing their exposure and finding audiences for their work.

Renata Tatman is the lead buyer and product developer for the gallery and shop.

“The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) originally opened in 1933, in a beautiful Art Deco building in Seattle’s Volunteer Park. SAM has since grown and now has three locations; our main museum in downtown Seattle, the Olympic Sculpture Park just north of downtown, and our Asian Art Museum that is located in SAM’s original building. As the museum expanded, so did the store with two locations, and a special exhibition store that completely changes content and theme with each new exhibition.  Products in the store reflect what a visitor might expect to see at SAM and the collection is broad; African, Asian, Australian Aboriginal, contemporary, European, early American, Native American….so much to see!”

“Our new exhibition that opened in October 2019, titled “Flesh and Blood”, is a beautiful collection of old masters from the Capodimonte museum in Naples, Italy. The theme of our special exhibition store will be “ITALY”. We have carried Rossi products before with great success, and this theme was a wonderful opportunity to really show how beautiful this Italian product line is and feature a broader selection.”

Portrait of a cardinal, Alessandro Farnese. 1509-1511. The commissioned portrait of the future pope as a cardinal by the young master Raphael opens the exhibition.

gift wraps, journals, envelopes and writing papersFlesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum offers the opportunity to experience the intense beauty of art from the 16th and 17th centuries. Forty Renaissance and Baroque works of art (39 paintings and one sculpture) by masters such as Titian and Raphael are on view.  At the core of the collection is the eminent Farnese collection formed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

This exhibition marks the first time that this many works from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples have traveled together at the same time. The exhibit runs until January 26, 2020.

Renata continues:

We ordered a variety of gift wraps, journals, note pads, note cards, and stationary sets. My favorites are the journals made of different plant materials; hazelnut, lavender, citrus, and cherry. The notebook and small notecards with the historical illustration of an octopus are wonderful! Our Pacific Northwest clientele always appreciate a beautiful image of an octopus. Of course the Fiorenze note pads in all sizes with matching pencils are a must. Because our exhibition references Catholicism, we’ll feature a collection from the “Italian Gallery”. The notecards are of beautiful religious imagery accented with gold and will make perfect holiday cards.

Our clientele appreciate very good quality and love beautiful paper. They also like to hear the story behind a product; how it was made, the history, the inspiration. Rossi is a great example of a product that is very good quality, with a long and fascinating history.

boxed cards, notebook, stationary with decorated paper
 “Our main store in downtown Seattle has a contemporary feel with a broad range of products including books, contemporary design, hand crafted jewelry, glass and ceramics, textiles, toys, stationary, and a strong emphasis on products designed by regional artisans. We also have a variety of SAM branded products”, says Renata.

Renata is, befittingly, a true spokesperson and fan of SAM; “Come to Seattle and visit! We’d love to meet you and show you the exciting and ever changing collections at the Seattle Art Museum. Then of course you have to stop in the shop!”

rolled wrapping paper

Seattle Art Museum:

Current Exhibition:
Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum
Oct 17–Jan 26, Seattle Art Museum

SAAM (Seattle Asian Art Museum):

Olympic Sculpture Park:

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