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Seattle Asian Art Museum Project News & Events


March 13 Groundbreaking to Commemorate Start of Museum Renovation & Expansion

Work has begun on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project.  Gather with museum leaders and city officials as we celebrate the project groundbreaking.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 1 pm
Seattle Asian Art Museum, Front Entrance/Terrace
1400 E Prospect Street,
Seattle, WA 98112

The $54 million project will preserve the museum’s landmark Art Deco building; address critical infrastructure issues; increase ADA accessibility; add much-needed program and exhibition space; and create a better connection to surrounding Volunteer Park.


Join us for a Seattle Asian Art Museum Community Meeting on March 1

You are invited to attend a community meeting to learn more about the construction process and timeline, impact on the surrounding area, and timeline for the renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

The $54 million project will preserve the building’s original Art Deco façade, improve the museum’s infrastructure, protect the collection with climate control and seismic system upgrades, add vital gallery and education space, enhance ADA accessibility, and enhance the connection between the museum and Volunteer Park.

Work begins February/March 2018 and will continue for 14–15 months. The anticipated reopening of the museum is fall 2019.

Thursday, March 1, 7-8 pm
Miller Community Center
330 19th Ave. E
Seattle, WA 98112

Rendering of new art gallery

Seattle City Council Approves Seattle Asian Art Museum Project

Councilmembers unanimously voted on Monday, January 22, 2018 to approve the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s new lease agreement and a land use code amendment (the historic museum building is in a single-family zone).  This positive vote clears the way for the start of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Board previously approved the design.

The $54 million project will begin in February/March 2018, with an anticipated reopening of the museum in fall of 2019. The renovation and expansion will preserve the 1933 historic building and its Art Deco façade; improve the museum’s infrastructure; protect the collection with climate control and seismic system upgrades; add vital gallery and education space; and enhance ADA accessibility and the museum’s connection to Volunteer Park.

In return for the City’s financial commitment of $19 million toward the city-owned building’s preservation and improvements (in addition to $2 million previously provided by the City for pre-design work), the Seattle Asian Art Museum has also committed to boosting community benefits, including more free days, free tours and transportation for school groups, in-school art education programs, free lectures and panel discussions, $50,000 in financial assistance, and more.

A community meeting to discuss the construction timeline and project details will be scheduled for March 2018.

Find out more about the construction schedule.

Rendering of new art studio and education space

Seattle City Council to Vote on Seattle Asian Art Museum Project January 22, 2018

On Monday, January 22, 2018 at 2 pm, the Seattle City Council will vote on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation/expansion project.

This vote is on the heels of a January 17 meeting of the council’s Civic Development, Public Assets and Native Communities Committee, during which the land use code amendment and building lease were approved, clearing the way for the project to go to the full city council for final approval.

The council meeting is open to the public and will include an opportunity for public comment.  Please consider attending to support the project.

If the project is approved, the renovation and expansion of the museum’s historic building is anticipated to begin in February/March 2018.

Seattle City Council Chambers
600 Fourth Ave., Floor 2

Rendering of new park lobby

Council Subcommittee to Consider Land Use Code Amendment and Building Lease

The Seattle City Council’s Civic Development, Public Assets, and Native Communities Committee will meet on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 2 pm to consider (and hopefully approve) the Seattle Asian Art Museum project land use code amendment, as well as the development agreement and building lease.

The meeting is open to the public and will include an opportunity for public comment.

To view the meeting agenda, please visit:

If approval is granted, the City Council will consider the legislation at the full council meeting on Monday, January 22 at 2 pm.

Seattle City Council Chambers
600 Fourth Ave., Floor 2

Connecting with the Park - Rending of the East Exterior and Lawn

Seattle City Council Committee Holds Public Hearing on Land Use Action January 12, 2018

As one of the final steps in the process of gaining approval to renovate and expand the beloved Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Seattle City Council’s Civic Development, Public Assets and Native Communities Committee will hold a public hearing to solicit comment on the project’s proposed Land Use Action. This important meeting will be held on Friday, January 12 at 2 pm in the City Council Chambers of City Hall.Both Volunteer Park and the museum building (built prior to there being a Land Use Code) are in a single family zone. The Land Use amendment is specific to this one project and allows the addition in the single family zone, which otherwise would be prohibited. Those who cannot attend the meeting can send a message to the City Council with their input. Those wishing to make public comment via email should include the subject “Seattle Asian Art Museum Renovation,” their name, and a brief statement. The Seattle Art Museum urges those in favor of the project to voice their support in person or by sending a messaging to the City Council.

Find out more information on the project.


Seattle Art Museum Receives $3.5 Million Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

SAM has received a $3.5 million challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish and endow the Asian Paintings Conservation Center at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The only one of its kind in the western United States, the Center will be devoted to the conservation, mounting, and study of Asian paintings, serving SAM’s collection as well as institutional and private collections in the region. As part of the grant, SAM must raise $2.5 million in matching funds over four years to create an endowment supporting the Center’s operation.

“We are honored by this generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, and grateful for their stewardship and guidance as we’ve developed plans for the Center,” says Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO. “This is a significant step forward for this exciting project.”

“Establishing the Asian Paintings Conservation Center will fill a critical need for the field,” says Nicholas Dorman, SAM’s Chief Conservator. “This grant from the Mellon Foundation will help SAM and numerous institutions preserve these important works and the global cultural heritage they represent.”

The Center will be a highlight of the Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion, estimated for completion in 2019. The major project planned for the 1933-era building addresses critical infrastructure issues and adds muchneeded education and gallery space, in addition to creating this singular opportunity to establish a conservation center. A notable feature of the Center will be that visitors can observe the conservation facility through a viewing window, as well as displays featuring conservation projects and processes.

Photo:Nicholas Dorman.
Off the Walls

Off the Walls Community Celebration

This past September, the Seattle Asian Art Museum hosted the Off the Walls community celebration in its now-empty historic building. With all of the art moved offsite in preparation for the upcoming renovation and expansion, the free two-day event offered one last opportunity for visitors to experience and explore the museum’s beloved Art Deco building, which will be closed until 2019. For two days, September 15 to September 16, 2017, thousands of visitors came to the museum to enjoy photo opportunities, art activities, taiko drumming, dance performances, special temporary art installations by area artists, and a rare appearance by SAM’s mascot, Sammy the Camel!

Photos: Jen Au.

The Big Move

In anticipation of the start of the museum’s renovation and expansion project, the Seattle Asian Art Museum temporarily closed its doors in February 2017 to begin the major task of moving the museum’s significant collection out of the building and into storage. The complex move took more than six months, with special care taken to ensure the safety and security of each and every one of the thousands of artistic treasures in the Asian Art Museum’s collection.

Photo: Natali Wiseman.
Rendering of the Asian Art Museum's Garden Court

Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board Approves Asian Art Museum Renovation and Expansion Plan

Since the Seattle Asian Art Museum temporarily closed its doors in February 2017, we’ve continued preparations for the building’s renovation and expansion and completed moving our Asian art collection into storage.

Another milestone has been achieved on the Asian Art Museum project. On August 2 the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted to approve the renovation and expansion plans. The approved design was the result of more than a year of refinement by the project team to implement suggestions from the Landmarks Board, the City, and the public that will improve the museum building and Volunteer Park and preserve their significant historic features. The project’s approval process is complex, and pending the completion of remaining approvals with the City, work onsite will be scheduled to begin.