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Seattle Asian Art Museum Project News & Events


Revisiting Reopening the Seattle Asian Art Museum, At Last

One year ago, we welcomed you back to the renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum following a three-year closure while we reimagined and reinstalled SAM’s original home. Now, we are thrilled to invite you to another reopening in May 2021, following our year-long COVID closure to keep our community safe. The galleries have been waiting for you.

During the opening weekend in February 2020, 10,000 people visited the museum to experience the groundbreaking new thematic installation of SAM’s Asian art collection and share in creativity across cultures. It was moment to remember and we invite you to revisit the festivities in this video. Closing the museum just one month after this video was filmed was a sad moment and we know that many people did not get a chance to experience the expanded and enhanced Seattle Asian Art Museum. But soon, everyone will be able to!

The Seattle Asian Art Museum will reopen with limited capacity to members on May 7 and to the public on May 28. Friday, May 28 will be free and hours will be extended for Memorial Day weekend. Member tickets will be available starting April 15 and the public can get tickets starting April 29. The museum hours are 10 am–5 pm, Fridays–Sundays and admission is free on the last Friday of every month. When the museum reopens, the inaugural exhibitions will remain on view, including Boundless: Stories of Asian Art and Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art in the museum’s galleries and the installation Kenzan Tsutakawa-Chinn: Gather in the Fuller Garden Court. Learn more about what to know when you visit the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Today’s Seattle Asian Art Museum is inspired. The museum breaks boundaries to offer a thematic, rather than geographic or chronological, exploration of art from the world’s largest continent. The restoration of the historic Art Deco building, improvements to critical systems, expanded gallery and education spaces, and a new park lobby that connects the museum to the surrounding Volunteer Park are just some of the ways the Seattle Asian Art Museum has been transformed and preserved as a cultural and community resource for future generations.

You will no longer find galleries labeled China, Japan, or India. Instead, vibrant artworks from Vietnam to Iran, and everywhere in between, come together to tell stories of human experiences across time and place. From themes of worship and celebration to clothing and identity, nature and power to birth and death, the new collection installation reveals the complexity and diversity of Asia—a place of distinct cultures, histories, and belief systems that help shape our world today.


10,000 Seattle Asian Art Museum Tickets Sold in 4 weeks!

Tickets to the Seattle Asian Art Museum Housewarming: Free Reopening Weekend on February 8 & 9 are sold out! That’s 10,000 tickets gone in 4 weeks—people just can’t wait to see what we’ve done with the place.

We also can’t wait and there are plenty of other opportunities beyond the reopening weekend to visit the museum for free. Admission to the museum will be free on the first and second Thursdays of each month and on the first Saturday of every month. Admission for seniors will also be free for seniors on the first Friday of every month.

Many events include admission to the museum, so keep an eye out for other exciting upcoming events at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Or get a ticket to visit any time February 12 onward, and remember that admission is always suggested—you can pay what you want.

If you just can’t wait to see the Seattle Asian Art Museum, become a member and join us for the Members Open House on February 5 & 6 and enjoy free admission at all SAM locations for a full year!

Photo: Jueqian Fang


Reimagined, Reinstalled, Reopening February 8, 2020

We are so excited to announce that the Seattle Asian Art Museum—our historic home in Volunteer Park—will reopen on Saturday, February 8, 2020, following a 24-month-long renovation and expansion. We’ve addressed the critical needs of this 1933 Art Deco building for infrastructure, accessibility, and program space and now we are busy moving our Asian art collection back home.

The first update visitors will notice is to the park itself. Working from the original Olmsted Brothers design, the Walker Macy firm oversaw landscape renovations that created paths surrounding the museum, which were part of original plans. Other exterior updates include a more direct route between the museum and public transit on 15th Avenue, as well as improved ADA accessibility.

the fountain in the Fuller Gard Court

Visitors approaching the museum’s historic building will be welcomed with a freshly restored, iconic Art Deco sandstone façade, reglazed glass, and cleaned metalwork. Inside the building, visitors will be greeted by a light-filled lobby and renovated Garden Court with a newly revealed original historic fountain. Through the Garden Court, the lush greenery of Volunteer Park is now visible through the glass-enclosed park lobby expansion on the east side of the building.

view of the park lobby with glass walls overlooking the trees in Volunteer Park

One of the biggest changes visitors will find is in the presentation of the art. The expanded and improved space allows new stories of the collection to come to light amid changing definitions of Asian art in the 21st century. Ping Foong, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art; Xiaojin Wu, Curator of Japanese and Korean Art; and Darielle Mason, guest curator of South Asian Art, collaborated on a dramatic and innovative reimagining of the collection in Boundless: Stories of Asian Art. The inaugural special exhibition Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art draws from SAM’s collection to focus on art being made now by Asian artists living around the world.

Asian Art Museum camel in front of the building's Art Deco doorway

A free community celebration will welcome visitors back to the museum on February 8 and 9, 2020. It will feature two 12-hour days (9 am–9 pm) of programs reflecting the 12 themes of the reimagined collection galleries. Free tickets to this weekend-long event will be available to reserve later this winter.

Photos: Adam Hunter, Tim Griffith, and Natali Wiseman.


Seattle Asian Art Museum Opening Early 2020

Great progress continues in preparation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum for the reinstallation of our Asian art collection. Originally slated to reopen in November 2019, significant work that was not previously identified remains to be done on the building’s vintage passenger elevator. While our Temporary Certificate of Occupancy allows work to take place in the building, we cannot receive our Permanent Certificate of Occupancy until the elevator issues are resolved. Without this certificate, the museum cannot open to the public. Additional issues include climate control stabilization and ongoing finish work requiring dust mitigation which must be resolved before art can be moved safely back into the building.

While these final parts of the project are addressed, the wonderful Art Deco architectural elements which have been immaculately restored throughout the original spaces are once again being revealed. The new galleries created through the expansion are full of exciting potential and we’re sure the beautiful views of Volunteer Park from the glass-enclosed Park Lobby will quickly become a cherished space by visitors. As these recent images show, it will be worth the wait!

Though the restored and improved museum won’t be ready as soon as originally planned, we are confident it will open in early 2020. Check back here for ongoing project updates.

Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Adam Hunter.


Main Construction Phase Completed

Visitors to Volunteer Park may have noticed that the construction fencing has been taken down around the Seattle Asian Art Museum and that new grass has been planted. While the museum is not yet ready to reopen, we are pleased to note that the main construction phase of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project has been completed.

On Friday, June 21, 2019, the City issued a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, and responsibility for the building was officially returned to the Seattle Art Museum from BNBuilders. There is still much work to do inside the building, as the project begins final preparations for the art to be returned to the building—from testing the climate control systems to finalizing lighting and interior finishes to moving in case work for the display of art.

In addition to the completed expansion to the building’s east side, visitors to the park can already see some of the final results of the Seattle Asian Art Museum project. Immediately apparent is the stunning Art Deco metalwork at the iconic building’s front entrance that has been cleaned and fully restored. And the opaque finish on the glass used for the entrance has been removed, so for the first time in decades the windows are transparent, allowing visitors to see into the museum and even into the park beyond.

Work on the project continues, but each day brings us closer to the reopening of this cultural gem.

Fuller Garden Court in progress

The Fuller Garden Court Gets a Facelift

The walls of the Fuller Garden Court in the Seattle Asian Art Museum may look like marble or limestone, but they are actually scagliola, a form of plaster made to look like decorative stone. Over the years, the fragile scagliola walls and panels of the historic building have become damaged and discolored. As part of the museum’s renovation, these walls are being repaired and preserved. Cracked panels are being pieced together and glued using polymer injections, while the backsides of the panels are being reinforced with plaster and burlap or fiberglass. In addition, the faces of the scagliola panels will be patched with Keenes cement and a colored cement mix, and any scratches will be filled. Lastly, the walls of the Fuller Garden Court will be cleaned and polished.

When the museum reopens to the public after the renovation project is completed, visitors to the Fuller Garden Court will enjoy a space that closely resembles the way it would have looked when the building first opened in 1933.


Work Begins on New Fuller Garden Court Doorways

One of the elements of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion is the creation of new doorways in the museum’s Fuller Garden Court. These doorways—opening onto a new space with floor-to-ceiling glass windows—will allow for gorgeous views and strengthen the visual connection between the museum and Volunteer Park.

The Seattle Asian Art Museum’s historic building, and the original home of SAM, was constructed in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The walls of the Fuller Garden Court were created using scagliola (“scal-yo-lah”), a plaster technique that mimics the look and feel of natural and more costly stone.

Work is underway to carefully cut openings in the walls for these doorways. The parts of the wall being removed will be saved, should the need arise in the future to return the walls to their original form.


Park Lobby Glass Installation in Progress

Rain or shine, work continues on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project. Installation of the glass for the new park lobby addition is almost finished. Once the glass is in place and sealed, the entire space will be made weathertight.

When the museum reopens, the park lobby will offer visitors beautiful views and establish a stronger visual connection between the museum and Volunteer Park. It will also help visitor circulation in the museum.

Photo of the Olmsted Path as work progresses

Volunteer Park Path Upgrades Almost Complete

One component of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation project is upgrades to pedestrian paths in the park, including the restoration of historic Olmstedian paths and the creation of new paths in the east meadow (part of the original 1910 Olmsted plan for Volunteer Park).

Through an inclusive planning process in cooperation with the Capitol Hill community, Seattle Parks & Recreation, the National Park Service, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, Volunteer Park Trust, and other local and regional stakeholders, the Seattle Art Museum is in the process of constructing two historic Olmsted pathways, improving existing park pathway surfacing, strengthening the connection between 15th Avenue/public transit and the park, and improving pedestrian circulation around the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The path work will make the park more welcoming and usable.

Map of Olmstead paths

While work is in progress, visitors to the park will see protective fencing around the paths. This temporary chain-link fencing will be removed at the end of November 2018 (weather permitting).


Seattle Asian Art Museum Expansion “Topping Out”

The last beams are going in place for the steel framework of the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s expansion, located on the east side of the historic building in Volunteer Park.

Installation of structural steel began in June 2018. Visitors to the park can now see the outline of the new structure containing three floors, including a new gallery that will accommodate more of the museum’s collections and exhibitions. The renovation and expansion project will also add a much-needed dedicated Education space.

As the work on the expansion continues (just one part of the museum’s major renovation project), final exterior finishes including a glass curtain wall and new precast concrete will be added.

For monthly construction updates, visit the BNBuilders website.

Photo: Richard Beckerman