SAM plans more inclusive presentation of American art – KIRO 7 News Seattle
A transformation is underway at the Seattle Art Museum to overhaul American art galleries and make them more inclusive.
Inye Wokoma is a visual artist who grew up in Seattle.
He said there was something missing from the American art galleries on the third floor.
“I include myself in an audience that was not sensitive to the way the works were presented,” he said.
Wokoma is one of three artists helping Theresa Papanikolas, SAM’s Ann M. Barwick Curator for American Art, rethink the presentation of the permanent collection of American art.
“Seattle is a very diverse place, but this space, I have to say, is a very white space,” Papanikolas said. “It is dominated by a European narrative. One of those questions we ask ourselves is how do you break this down, how do you decolonize the museum? “
This is a question museums across the country are asking themselves now.
SAM recently acquired an 1887 painting of the Columbia River by African-American artist Grafton Tyler Brown.
Most importantly, the curatorial team will be digging into the museum’s existing collection from the late 18th century to WWII.
“What is hidden in the storage that we want to highlight; what are the themes that can be taken out of the collections?
Wokoma already finds a theme in a famous painting, “Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast” by Albert Bierstadt.
“There is a hypermystic quality in this painting,” Wokoma said.
He explained that the 1870 painting was on tour, promoting a land of economic wealth.
Wokoma sees a connection to another piece in the collection, the Chicago Stock Exchange elevator grille.
“So you have a place where it was the seat of this speculation, and you have a place that evokes the speculative possibilities of what is out there. And for me, it’s a very interesting narrative framing, ”said Wokoma.
The three artists will create new works in response to the American collection.
A team of people will discover how to display the art, add more voices to the interpretations, and connect with other galleries, especially the Native American Art Gallery.
“I don’t see us removing pieces. I can see us reinterpreting plays, questioning them, really saying why they are problematic, why this is a story that needs to be examined, ”Papanikolas said.
Funded primarily by a $ 1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the new galleries will open in October 2022, offering a new and more inclusive take on the canon of American art.
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