Photo by Daniel Sheehan, courtesy of MOHAI
Seattle has a longstanding reputation as a hub for music (Brandi Carlile; Soundgarden; Pearl Jam), fishing (Pike Place Market) and coffee (ahem, Starbucks), but it’s time we gave some special attention to his art. Across the city, a thriving network of museums, galleries and artist pop-ups gives Seattle residents access to incredibly powerful and important works created by both rising stars and already iconic figures. . From traveling exhibits to permanent shows, there’s an ever-changing menu of cultural experiences to enjoy in this city. But where to start ? Ahead, Seattle’s best museums for art, culture, history and more.
Here’s the deal with the Frye: although the gift shop is so good it needs no introduction, the art itself is still better. Currently showing? A breathtaking exhibition of the abstract work of prolific artist Romare Bearden, with works created between 1952 and 1964 aptly titled “Romare Bearden: Abstraction”. There’s only one month left to see the exhibit, so grab it while you can, along with ‘Jeremy Shaw: Liminals’ (on view through October 9), plus more.
Things to know before you go: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is always free. There are also free 30-minute guided tours on second Saturdays and second Sundays, which meet at 1 p.m. in the Rotunda. Finally, Café Frieda is (unfortunately) still closed.
South Lake Union
Right next to MOHAI is the Wooden Boat Center (otherwise known as CWB), a museum dedicated to preserving PNW’s rich maritime heritage. CWB is very convenient; once you’ve visited an exhibit on, say, small historic craft, you can check out the museum’s active fleet of boats just outside on the waters of Lake Union.
Things to know before you go: In addition to museum exhibits, the CWB offers many free and paid opportunities to get out on the water, like sailing lessons, boat rentals, and charter cruises. Hours vary by season (check here) and admission is always free.
SAM is our first rec of what is a three-location museum trifecta, which also includes the Olympic Sculpture Garden and the Asian Art Museum in Seattle. During this first stage, discover “Anthony White: Limited Liability”, a show presenting some memories (and critiques) of late capitalism, and the show by sculptor Alberto Giacometti “Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure”, on view until to January 29 and October 9, respectively.
Things to know before you go: SAM is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Monday and Tuesday. If you buy a ticket online in advance, you save $3, which means you pay $19.99 instead of the daily price of $22.99. (Reserve your ticket here.) Additionally, while masks are no longer required, the museum has set aside time exclusively for visitors wearing a mask on the third Saturday of each month from 9-10 a.m.
The Henry holds the title of Washington State’s first-ever art museum, having first opened in 1927. Since then, its size has quadrupled, added a permanent immersive sculpture by James Turrell titled light rein, and has played a vital role as a destination for arts and ideas on the UW campus. All this to say that it is high time you visited this museum, as soon as possible.
Things to know before you go: Admission is on a sliding scale of suggested donation, from $0 to $20, and free on the first Thursday of each month. The cafe is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A new addition to Capitol Hill’s art landscape, the Museum of Museums opened in 2020. The MoM building, however, has been around since 1946 and now houses two official exhibition spaces, three additional on-site museums, rotating installations, weekly art classes, etc. Oh, and if you like thrift stores, check out Mobile Mall Seattle, which hosts semi-regular vintage malls in the basement of MoM, among other things.
Things to know before you go: Advanced tickets are $10 a pop. The MoM is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. If you are an artist interested in showing work at the museum, check out their open calls page here.
Tucked away in a 1930s art deco building in Volunteer Park, the Seattle Asian Art Museum is actually housed in SAM’s original home, which moved in 1991. Today, the building is entirely dedicated to their extensive collection. of Asian art; currently on view is a group exhibition titled “Beyond the Mountain: Contemporary Chinese Artists on Classical Forms”. The museum also organizes tours and lectures at the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas.
Things to know before you go: The museum is currently open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, but will be closed on Thursdays from September 1. Tickets are $14.99 when purchased in advance or $17.99 at the door. Parking is free at the Volunteer Park.
Seattle has a rich Scandinavian history, so it’s no surprise that there’s an entire museum devoted to historical and contemporary Nordic culture. While the permanent exhibition will educate you on 12,000 years of Nordic history, showcasing the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden), the rotating exhibits vary widely – currently on view is an exhibition focus on climate change titled “Across the West and Northward: Norwegian and American Landscape Photography.
Things to know before you go: The first Thursday of each month is free; otherwise, tickets will cost you $20 each. Visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Monday.
South Lake Union
With items like Boeing’s first commercial airplane and Rainier’s 12-foot-tall “R” neon on permanent display, the Museum of History and Industry, AKA MOHAI, is both a time capsule and an image of our present time. Two current photography exhibits make this museum a must-visit: “Ansel Adams: Masterworks” and “Perspectives on Place: Photographs from Here,” the latter being a group exhibit in conjunction with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State.
Things to know before you go: It is recommended to buy your ticket in advance; You can do it here. MOHAI is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
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