A Tale of Two Exhibitions

By Tracey Wickersham

Young Girl in Green Dress

Jeune fille en vert (Young Girl in Green Dress), 1927-30, Tamara de Lempicka, oil on canvas, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris. © 2012 Tamara Art Heritage / ADAGP, Paris / ARS, NY. From Elles exhibit at SAM.

Paris, Seattle, or both?

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend exhibitions that opened just days apart at two of our primary art museums. I think the contrast between these shows is illustrative in defining the breadth and appeal of Seattle’s art museum offerings.

On view at Seattle Art Museum (SAM) through January 13, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, is described as “a landmark exhibition of more than 130 works of art made by 75 women artists from 1907 to 2007.” This collection of key works by women artists drawn from the Pompidou’s collection, one of the finest in the world, includes Sonia Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Diane Arbus, Marina Abramovi?, Louise Bourgeois, Atsuko Tanaka, Cindy Sherman, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin, Tania Bruguera, and many more.

The pieces on view in Elles have never before travelled together as a collection, and the exhibition’s specific focus on female artists gives the opportunity  to see major works that until now have not been on continual public view.  Notably, SAM is the only U.S. venue for the show, which speaks to the growing international reputation for excellence of our city’s largest art museum, and certainly makes us proud. The exhibition is big, bold, sweeping, and ambitious. And if that’s not enough, SAM has also programmed a companion exhibition, Elles: SAM, a major reinstallation of its modern and contemporary art galleries.  Through February 17, SAM’s contemporary galleries celebrate the accomplishments of approximately 30 female artists. Art on view includes 1920s paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and photographs by Imogen Cunningham, a dramatic installation of Yayoi Kusama’s mixed media creations, Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays, and a solo show of Seattle-based artist Victoria Haven. These works are drawn from SAM’s own collection, as well as from key private collections from throughout the region and across the country.

Leo Saul Berk -- Frye Art Museum

Leo Saul Berk. Clinkers (detail), 2012. Duratrans, sculptural light box. Approx. 75 x 64 1/2 in. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of the Frye Art Museum.

Just up First Hill at the Frye Art Museum, Mw [Moment Magnitude] opened the same week. Described as an ambitious cross-platform project of visual art, performance, specially commissioned artworks, literary events, and arts engagement programs showcasing exceptional artistic practice in Seattle, Mw is on view until January 20.  Conceived by a curatorial collective, Mw [Moment Magnitude] takes its name from the scale used by seismologists to measure the size of earthquakes in terms of energy released. This exhibition focuses on artists living and working in Seattle, including Leo Saul Berk, Jherek Bischoff, The Black Constellation (Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes), Rebecca Brown, Matt Browning, Cris Bruch, Anne Fenton, Evan Flory-Barnes, Wynne Greenwood, Eyvind Kang, Jeffry Mitchell, Perfume Genius, Buster Simpson, Vis-à-Vis Society, and zoe | juniper. Housed within the relatively intimate spaces of the Frye, it’s perhaps less overwhelming, but no less engaging.

So whether your interests run to big, bold traveling international shows, or you want to dig more deeply into the art being made past, present and future right here in Seattle, our museums are ready to welcome you.

If you go:

Tracey Wickersham, SAM Exterior

Seattle Art Museum is open Tuesdays-Sundays, with extended hours on Thursdays and Fridays. Admission prices vary; see website for details.

The Frye Art Museum is open Tuesdays-Sundays, with extended hours on Thursdays.  Admission is free; donations are accepted. Free parking.

Pete Eckert, Frye Entry


Tip:  Both museums offer excellent cafes and museum stores. The Frye Gallery Café makes for a great casual lunch stop. TASTE Restaurant at SAM offers delicious, seasonal fare in an attractive setting, and their happy hour is a hidden gem!


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.

Tracey Wickersham


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