A MIRROR on Seattle

Doug Aitken's MIRROR at Seattle Art Museum

A rendering of Doug Aitken’s MIRROR at Seattle Art Museum

Picture this:  1000+ people gathered along a closed-off First Avenue between Union and University Streets in downtown Seattle, on a crisp March evening, awaiting a slightly delayed art installation unveiling because of……excess sunshine.

Yep, that was the scene on Sunday night March 24. I and about 1000 of my new pals were gathered to witness the premiere of Doug Aitken’s new MIRROR artwork on the side of Seattle Art Museum. But as 6:30 approached, it was clear that the western façade of SAM was still bathed in the warm glow from a golden yellow orb in the sky, and our art experience was going to be delayed.  Perhaps it was all the Vitamin D, but the crowd seemed happy enough to chat away, visit the tasty food trucks and pass the time. I mean who can work up a snit while eating a Painted Hills beef burger with arugula, bleu cheese and bacon jam from Skillet, or a “Full Monte” Cristo from Mobile Melts?  You can’t be mad with a mouth full of cheesy goodness and a face full of sunshine. Well, at least I couldn’t.

At last, the sun dipped low in the western sky, illuminating a beautiful backdrop of Elliott Bay and the Seattle Great Wheel to the west, and the event began. MIRROR is a permanent new installation on the exterior wall of SAM by artist Doug Aitken. A monumental LED display that wraps around the northwest corner of the museum’s building, the main component is a glass-covered horizontal band of images which dissolve into narrow columns of light that run up and down the façade in a dynamic configuration. Featuring hundreds of hours of footage shot in Seattle and around the Puget Sound region, MIRROR is, according to SAM, “Like a living kaleidoscope, a dynamic representation of the constantly changing environments of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.”  I loved the colors, the shapes, the images both recognizable and not, and the whole effect.


MIRROR at SAM, March 24. Photo by Tracey Wickersham.

For Sunday night’s event, the unveiling was set to music by composer Terry Riley and his monumental work, In C, performed by Seattle Symphony musicians, which was a delight. In true Seattle fashion, given the March date, the stages were carefully draped for rain, and the plastic sidewalls just served to reflect the last rays of golden sunshine to lovely effect.

The street is back to normal today, and MIRROR is now on view for all to enjoy. We’re grateful to Seattle Art Museum, and to the late Bagley Wright who, before his passing in 2011, along with his wife Virginia, commissioned this significant work for our city. Come see it for yourself, and of course, the terrific work INSIDE the museum as well!

About the Author

Tracey Wickersham

Tracey Wickersham is the Director of Cultural Tourism at Visit Seattle. In her off hours she’s the host of a weekly music program on KBCS 91.3 FM and a board member at 4Culture, supporting arts, heritage, public art and historic preservation in King County. She lives in West Seattle with her husband, one headstrong elderly Australian Cattle Dog, heaps of books and music, and an unwieldy garden.

More Posts By Tracey Wickersham
Tracey Wickersham



  1. Beautiful photos! What an interesting looking building! Definitely a piece of art. This must be just a few steps away from the Hampton Inn rooms.

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