Seattle Asian Art Museum set to reopen to public after 3-year renovation

May 24, 2021, 12:38 PM

The Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Rootology, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)...

The Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Rootology, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

(Rootology, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As Seattle slowly starts to open up as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccinations increase, places like the Seattle Art Museum have started to reopen their exhibits, and that includes the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park.

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The Seattle Asian Art Museum has undergone a transformation after being closed for three years.

“We’re very, very excited that we’re going to be reopening the Seattle Asian Art Museum,” said Amada Cruz, director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum. “So for those of you who have never been there, you’re in for a treat because the Asian Art Museum is an historic building from 1933, it’s a sort of quintessential art deco gem in the middle of this beautiful park.”

“And when you walk in, you’re going to see a world class collection of art and artifacts from all over Asia,” Cruz continued. “The museum underwent a three-year renovation, so it is looking particularly spiffy, and clean, and there’s lots of natural light. And there’s a really wonderful relationship between the park and the building and the artworks now, so it’s really a gem.”

There’s now a glass area in the back of the building where museum visitors can look out over the park. For those in the park, Cruz says they can look up inside and “see this beautiful buddha, which is sort of glowing and floating above you.”

The Seattle Art Museum, Cruz explained, actually started as a collection of Asian art from a Dr. Fuller and his wife. They were the main donors of the collection and of the building itself.

“They actually funded the building,” Cruz said. “So this goes back to the 30s. That is really the heart and soul of the Seattle Art Museum, but it needed some renovations after being around from the 30s. And so what’s really interesting about the renovations is you don’t actually see a lot of what happened during those three years because essentially what you have is a 21st century infrastructure hidden behind a 1933 art deco beautiful gem. Unfortunately, we can’t peel back the walls and show you all the wonderful structural enhancements that we made.”

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The art at the Seattle Asian Art Museum is now arranged around 12 themes central to Asia’s arts and societies, rather than by country or location.

“They’re themes that we all share actually I guess an interest in — worship, celebration, birth, death. It’s actually so interesting because you start making connections between all these disparate works of art and all these different eras and visual codes,” Cruz said. “A little bit of a risk perhaps when we first opened up, but it has gotten rave reviews and people find it quite refreshing.”

Cruz sees the reopening of this museum as especially timely.

“To have a specific building in a specific place that celebrates the arts and culture and societies of all of Asia is very, very important. Also, specifically, I think on the West Coast and in Seattle because we have this deep connection with Asia and the Pacific Rim where we are, but also celebrating that culture is becoming is so important with the changing demographics here,” Cruz said. “But also at this historic moment when we’ve seen some pretty harrowing instances of violence against Asian and Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. From my point of view to, at this particular moment, be able to reopen this museum and celebrate all these cultures is enormously important as well.”

The Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens to the public on May 28. You can get tickets here. For now, museum capacity is still reduced to keep everyone safe and masks are required.

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