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Strategy key to Seattle Art Museum.

Our guide to the Northwest's preeminent art collections

NOW THAT A YEAR HAS PASSED since the opening of the Seattle Art Museum's new downtown home, visitors have discovered that it takes a bit of planning to "do SAM." With its headline-grabbing architecture and world-class collections, the $62-million limestone-clad museum has had no problem drawing crowds. To make your visit a satisfying one, you need a strategy: Go early in the week (but not on Tuesdays), avoid the elevators, and take advantage of the special programs and free docent-led tours.


Thanks to Seattle's hilly topography, museaumgoers can enter on two different levels. The lower one, on First Avenue, is more dramatic and is adjacent to the museum's acclaimed gift store.

While you are in the lobby, be sure to check out the information board that lists tour times and special events for children and adults alike.

The Second Avenue entrance is closer to the local Metro stop and the Museum Cafe, which is open during the museum's regular hours. At lunch, there's often a 15- to 20-minute wait, but the smoked salmon chowder is worth it. One solution is to eat early and tour the galleries during the lunch rush. Whichever way you enter, though, remember: The only public rest rooms are on the First and Second Avenue levels, so plan ahead.


Savvy visitors avoid the elevators (and their waits) as much as possible. Your best bet is to ride to the fourth floor and work your way down through the galleries via the stairwell.

The fourth floor houses the museum's collection of Western and Near Eastern art, from the ancient Mediterranean to the contemporary Pacific Northwest. You'll see everything from free-blown Roman glass dating from the first century to the work of Andy Warhol. One gallery is devoted to Northwest artists, from the venerable (Mark Tobey) to the up-and-coming (Nancy Mee).


If you are pressed for time, go to the third floor to see the Katherine White Collection of African Art. At some 2,500 pieces, this collection of textiles, jewelry, and ceremonial masks is one of the best in the world.

Also on the third floor is a large selection of the museum's more than 6,000 pieces of Asian art, as well as galleries featuring the art and culture of Northwest Native Americans.


Galleries on the second floor have been designed for special or traveling exhibitions. It was here, for example, that the museum mounted last summer's popular 800-piece show by local glass artist Dale Chihuly. The next blockbuster runs December 17 through February 7: the William S. Paley Collection of 19th-and 20th-century art from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Museum hours are 11 to 5 Tuesdays through Saturdays (until 9 on Thursdays), noon to 5 Sundays. During the run of the Paley exhibition, the museum will open at 10 Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Recommended admission is $5, $3 for seniors and students. Nonmembers enter free on the first Tuesday of each month. The Paley show has a $2 non-member surcharge. For more information, call (206) 654-3100.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hunter, Cynthia
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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