Seattle Asian Art Museum

The Seattle Asian Art Museum (often abbreviated to SAAM) is a museum of Asian art at Volunteer Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, United States. Part of the Seattle Art Museum, the SAAM exhibits historic and contemporary artworks from China, Korea, Japan, India, the Himalayas, and other Southeast Asian countries.[2] It also features an education center, conservation center, and library.[3] The museum is located in the 1933 Art Deco building which was originally home to the Seattle Art Museum's main collection. In 1991 the main collection moved to a newly constructed Seattle Art Museum building in the downtown area. The Seattle Asian Art Museum opened in 1994.[4]

Seattle Asian Art Museum
Seattle Asian Art Museum.jpg
Seattle Asian Art Museum in 2008
LocationVolunteer Park
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
TypeArt museum
CollectionsHistoric and contemporary Asian art
ArchitectLMN Architects (2020 expansion)
OwnerCity of Seattle
Public transit accessCapitol Hill station
WebsiteSeattle Asian Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Asian Art Museum is located in Washington (state)
Seattle Asian Art Museum
LocationSeattle, Washington
Coordinates47°37′49″N 122°18′51″W / 47.6303°N 122.3143°W / 47.6303; -122.3143Coordinates: 47°37′49″N 122°18′51″W / 47.6303°N 122.3143°W / 47.6303; -122.3143
ArchitectCarl F. Gould
Architectural styleArt Moderne
NRHP reference No.16000474[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 20, 2016
Designated SEATLJune 21, 1989
Camel statue in front of the SAAM


The SAAM is organized thematically, with art and objects grouped by their relationship to themes including "spirituality, worship, celebration, visual arts, literature, clothing, nature and the power of birth and death."[3] The museum's permanent collection spans thirteen galleries.[5] There is one large gallery reserved for special exhibitions which changes every six months.[3]


The Seattle Art Museum was founded in 1933 by Richard E. Fuller, a collector of Asian art. Sixty years later, in 1993, the main Seattle Art Museum announced that it would open an Asian art museum at its original Volunteer Park location.[6][7] A reception, held November 1993 as part of the APEC Summit, was attended by the leaders of East Asian nations and 400 guests.[8] The SAAM officially opened to the public on August 13, 1994, during a ceremony attended by 6,000 visitors.[9]

The museum houses an Asian Paintings Conservation Center.[5]


The Seattle Asian Art Museum is housed in a historic Art Deco building designed in 1933 by Carl F. Gould of the architectural firm Bebb and Gould. From 1933 to 1991, the building served as the home of the Seattle Art Museum and its main collection. After the main collection moved to a new museum in Downtown Seattle, the building underwent an early renovation in the 1990s at a cost of $5.2 million.[citation needed] The Gould building was designated a Seattle landmark in 1989,[10] and officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.[10]

The museum underwent a major expansion project, starting in 2017, that was spurred by the need to upgrade the building's HVAC system, freight elevator, and seismic resistance.[11] The project was funded by a mixture of public and private donations and included preservation of the museum's historic Art Deco facade, infrastructure upgrades, climate control and seismic system improvements, as well as the addition of new gallery and education spaces.[12] Seattle-based firm LMN Architects was responsible for design of a US$56 million renovation and expansion of the building.[13][2] Construction on the renovation project began with a ceremonial groundbreaking on March 13, 2018.[14] The museum closed for three years for the major renovation, from February 2017 until February 2020.[15] The new three-story wing is constructed principally out of glass and sandstone in a minimalist style.[16]


The Seattle Asian Art Museum holds a permanent collection of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian art.[2][17] The museum continues to grow its collection of art "centered around historic, modern, and contemporary Asian Pacific Islander as well as Southeast Asian art, specifically collecting different works created by local Asian Pacific Islander artists within the Seattle area."[17]

The collection holds the artwork entitled Some/One by South Korean sculptor Do-Ho Suh in the form of a suit of armor made of thousands of military IDs, or dog-tags.[18][3] South Korean ceramic artist Yoon Kwang-cho is also represented in the collection.[5]



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Seattle Asian Art Museum Reopens after $56 Million Renovation". ARTFORUM. February 7, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Gangler, Julie (February 29, 2020). "Day Trip Discoveries: Seattle Asian Art Museum - reopened and re-imagined". My Edmonds News. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  4. ^ Reynolds, Jonathan M., ed. (September 1994). "Museum News". Newsletter, East Asian Art and Archaeology. Center of Japanese Studies, University of Michigan (47): 13.
  5. ^ a b c Quiray Tagle, Thea (February 12, 2020). "Seattle Museum Falls Short of "Reimagining" Asian Art as It Promised". Hyperallergic. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  6. ^ Updike, Robin (June 27, 1993). "Old SAM: A museum gets ready to be born again". The Seattle Times. p. F8. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Updike, Robin (July 31, 1994). "Honoring Asia's treasures: the rebirth of an art museum gives Seattle a long-awaited chance to savor its cultural legacy". The Seattle Times. p. M1.
  8. ^ Gupta, Himanee (November 20, 1993). "Meeting to remember for Seattleites: guests thriled by rubbing shoulders with world leaders". The Seattle Times. p. A10.
  9. ^ Updike, Robin (August 13, 1994). "SAAM's showcase: today the public gets its look at Asian treasures". The Seattle Times. p. C1.
  10. ^ a b Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for S Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Individual Landmarks, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Accessed December 28, 2007.
  11. ^ Kiely, Brendan (January 30, 2020). "Step inside the reinvented Seattle Asian Art Museum, set to reopen after 3 years". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  12. ^ "Seattle Asian Art Museum Improvements". Seattle Parks and Recreation. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  13. ^ Johnson, Sara (March 13, 2018). "Renovation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum Begins". Architect Magazine. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  14. ^ "Construction begins on Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation". Northwest Asian Weekly. March 26, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  15. ^ Reiner-Roth, Shane (February 3, 2020). "LMN Architects reveals newly renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum". The Architect's Newspaper. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  16. ^ Thrope, Harriet (February 3, 2020). "Seattle's art deco Asian Art Museum gains a modern extension". Wallpaper. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Porter, Madeleine (February 20, 2020). "Seattle Asian Art Museum Reopens". 425 Magazine. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  18. ^ Sillman, Marcie (February 7, 2020). "Seattle's Asian Art Museum reopens, but not quite the same as it ever was". KUOW. Retrieved June 22, 2020.

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