Seattle, true to its reputation, is home to some of the most celebrated cultural centers. From antiquity to the present, these diverse collections of museums, galleries, and foundations are wonderful places to discover, learn, and be dazzled! Each has its own distinct personality, and we have compiled a list of the top 8 must-see Seattle art museums!
Seattle Art Museum
100 University Street, Volunteer Park, Seattle, WA 98101-2902 – See on map
Opened for the first time in 1933 in Volunteer Park, on Capitol Hill, Seattle Art Museum (SAM) moved in 1991 in the close proximity of Pike Place Market. Now housed in a modern building, the museum is easily identifiable by the giant statue of a black man and his hammer that stands in front of the edifice. The building in Volunteer Park now houses Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), but remains one of SAM’s facilities. The same goes for the Olympic Sculpture Park, located on Seattle waterfront, inaugurated on January 20th, 2007.
Figurehead of a cultural center that is Seattle, the Seattle Art Museum showcases local art collections, but also of African and Oriental ones. The 21,000 exhibits in the museum illustrate 5,000 years of history, from ancient Egypt to modern America.
But the wealth of the Seattle Art Museum, as well as its great fame, comes from the superb collection of Native American art that this Seattle art museum houses. This collection is considered the finest Native American art collection in the world since the acquisition of the famous Hauberg collection. On display – masks, sculptures, household objects, utensils and clothes that reflect the delicacy and finesse of the artists who have shaped them.
In the corridors of the museum, you will find fascinating exhibitions of ancient art (Egypt, Greece and ancient Rome), European art (from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century) and Northwest American painting. Modern and contemporary art are also honored with exhibitions of sculptures, photographs and paintings by masters such as Pollock, De Kooning, Warhol …
- Opening hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Wednesday -Sunday, 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM on Thursdays, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
- Prices: $19.50 for adults. $17.50 for seniors (over 62), $12.50 for students and teenagers (13-17). Admission is free for children under 3. Entrance to the Olympic Sculpture Park is always free of charge, while for the other facilities, entrance is free on the first Thursday of each month. However, you can also choose to pay your own price or not at all to visit Seattle Art Museum. This option does not include special exhibitions.
- More info: www.seattleartmuseum.org
Frye Art Museum
4 Terry Ave., Seattle, WA 98104 – See on map
Located in the close proximity of Downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill, Frye Art Museum first opened its doors back in 1952 as the legacy of the Frye couple, whose name this top museum of art in Seattle took. An immigrant of German origin and a prominent businessman, Charles Frye and his wife Emma collected during their lifetime an impressive number of 230 19th-20th century European paintings that feature a tendency toward “the dark, the dramatic, and the psychological” rather than “the genteel”.
After their death, Walser Sly Greathouse supervised the founding of the museum, their private collection becoming the Fry Art Museum’s settlement stone. Besides this, the museum is also home remarkable temporary exhibitions displaying the works of both famous and emerging artists. As of 2001, adjacent to the museum, there is a library containing over 1000 books focusing on 19th-20th century European and American art.
- Opening hours: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM on Thursdays, closed on Mondays
- Prices: free
- More info: www.fryemuseum.org
Bellevue Arts Museum
510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004 – See on map
One of the most interesting Seattle art museums and a top location for those who want to get to know the American art, craft and design, Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM) focuses on the concept of transformative art. Believing in the power of art, BAM is not only an exhibition space, but also a community center where the local community can engage in artistic activities. You will find Inspiration Stations throughout the building of Bellevue Arts Museum. They are equipped with craft materials that the visitors can use.
An interesting part of BAM – the Court of Light Sculpture Garden located on the 3rd floor is the place where you can admire large-scale works of art signed by local as well as international artists. The exhibits change periodically, so each visit to BAM will be a new exciting experience. The work of a Washington architect Steven Holl, the Northern wall of Court of Light follows the curvy shape of the 48th parallel. A true show to watch is the line traced by the sun on this wall during the summer solstice.
- Opening hours: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Monday.
- Prices: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, military and students, $5 for teenagers (13-18). There is also a family ticket of $25 that grants admission to up t0 2 adults with up to 4 kids. Entrance is free of charge on the first Friday of each month
- More info: www.bellevuearts.org
Seattle Asian Art Museum
Volunteer Park, 1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle, WA 98112-3303 – See on map
Housed by an Art Deco edifice erected in 1933 situated in the heart of Volunteer Park, Seattle Asian Art Museum showcases rich collections of Asian art. The exhibits come from different Asian countries like Japan, India, China, the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam. The building was initially home to the entire Seattle Art Museum, but when the new SAM building was finished, in 1991, the East Prospect Street edifice remained the residence of the Asian art collections.
At ground level, you will find a generous exhibition of Japanese Art and Shape, as well as one providing a Seattle perspective on Chinese art and some temporary smaller exhibitions.
Founded in partnership with the University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies and Departments of Art History and Asian Languages and Literature, the Elliott Bay Book Company and other institutions, the Garden Center offers a dynamic way of exploring the fascinating world of Asian art.
- Opening hours:10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Wednesday -Sunday, 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM on Thursdays, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
- Prices: $7 for adults. $5 for seniors (over 62), students and teenagers (13-17). Admission is free for children under 12.
- More info: www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/asian-art-museum
Chihuly Garden and Glass
305 Harrison St, Seattle, WA 98109 – See on map
Currently one of the best Seattle art museums, Chihuly Garden and Glass was founded by Dale Chihuly – an interior design graduate of at the University of Washington. After being part of the first glass program in the United States, Dale was one of the teaching pioneers in this field, giving art courses at the Rhode Island School of Design for over a decade. He also studied technique of blowing glass at the Venini factory in Venice.
An internationally reputed artist, whose works feature the collections of over 200 museums around the world, Dale Chihuly made the subject of various exhibitions housed by renowned cultural institutions, including the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Since May 21st 20012, there is a Seattle gallery showcasing his work – Chihuly Garden and Glass. The impressive edifice designed by Owen Richards Architects has three main parts – the Garden, the Glasshouse, and the Interior Exhibits. Adjacent to them, you will find here a café, multifunctional theater hall, lecture rooms, and commercial spaces. The Glasshouse’s image has made the tour of the world because of the suspended sculpture adorning one of the facades.
- Opening hours: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM, Sunday – Thursday, 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Friday & Saturday.
- Prices: $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $12 for children aged 4-12, free of charge for kids under 4. There is the option of buying a combined ticket with the Space Needle.
- More info: www.chihulygardenandglass.com
The Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)
5701 6th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108 – See on map
An integral part of Seattle artistic life for over three decades, CoCA is a magnetic activity center and exhibition hall.
If you want to be up to date with the field of contemporary art, this top museum of art in Seattle is the right place to star, and also where to continue as the exhibitions change regularly at CoCA and the events agenda never lacks interest.
From art marathons to indoor art walks and interactive activities the Center on Contemporary Art attracts the local art buffs as well as the tourists.
- Opening hours: 09:oo AM – 05:00 PM, Monday – Friday
- Prices: free
- More info: www.cocaseattle.org
Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP Museum)
325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109 – See on map
Built in 2000, the Experience Music Project (EMP) is a creative and interactive museum that certainly foreshadows the development of museums in the twenty-first century. EMP was funded by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, and is a tribute to music in general and to the rock genre in particular. Originally, the EMP was meant be a museum dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, who was born in Seattle. Finally, the EMP opened to the rock in general, but Jimi Hendrix and his contribution to rock music always plays a major role.
The design of the impressive edifice housing EMP was signed by Frank Gehry, the brilliant architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The strange architecture, with no right angles, is supposed to take the form of two electric guitars. The futuristic building fits quite well the Seattle Center neighborhood, close to the Space Needle. However, people’s opinions about the shape and colors of the museum are divided.
Inside the museum you can admire 80.000 exhibits covering the history of rock music with detours through blues and hip hop. Unlike the architecture, the museum itself is unanimous. The great innovation of the EMP is interactivity. Paul Allen and his colleagues have appealed to interactive design to convey the best stories. You can, for example, find out how Jimi Hendrix was composing his songs while listening to them at the same time. In a nutshell, EMP is a treat for music lovers!
- Opening hours: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM daily
- Prices: $22 for adults, $19 for seniors (over 65) and students, $16 for military and youth (5-17), free for children under 5. Audio guides available for an extra $5.
- More info: www.empmuseum.org
- Buy CityPASS Seattle (includes EMP Museum)
Henry Art Gallery
4100 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105 – See on map
An often overlooked museum of art in Seattle located on the University of Washington campus, Henry Art Gallery finds its origins back in 1927, when was founded by Horace Chapin Henry – a local businessman who donated his private collection of 127 paintings to the university.
At that time the only public art museum in the entire Washington state, Henry Art Gallery operates until today on the founding principle that art broadens our horizons and our perspectives on life. Its building designed by a Seattle architect Carl F. Gould houses permanent and temporary art exhibitions.
- Opening hours:11:00 AM – 04:00 PM on Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays, Thursday, 11:00 AM – 09:00 PM on Fridays, closed on Mondays & Tuesdays
- Prices:$10 for adults, $6 for seniors (over 62), free every first Thursday of the month.
- More info: www.henryart.org