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Seattle Asian Art Museum to Reopen After $56 Million Renovation


On Saturday, the Seattle Asian Art Museum will reopen after a two-year, $56 million restoration and renovation, unveiling new and modern spaces to share its extensive collection. The building is one of three associated with the Seattle Art Museum, and except for some minor additions, has not had a major renovation since its construction in 1933.

The local firm LMN Architects was hired for the project, which consisted of modernizing the building and its mechanical systems, expanding gallery and education space and preserving its art deco facade. The new design also added a glass-enclosed lobby to the east side of the building, enhancing the connection between the museum and its surroundings in Volunteer Park.

In addition to a new 2,648-square-foot gallery, community meeting room and education studio, the museum received a separate $3.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create a conservation studio specifically designed to support the preservation, mounting and study of Asian paintings.

Sam Miller, a the partner-in-charge from LMN, said the firm also made improvements for work that goes on behind the scenes. The firm added a freight elevator and replaced the original skylights with adjustable light fixtures that emulate natural daylight. It also enhanced the museum’s climate control systems to better protect its collection.

“Ideally if we’ve done our job correctly, it feels like it always has in many ways,” Mr. Miller said in a phone interview. “But it has all new systems, all new lighting, everything has been modernized and yet put in with care and with delicacy, trying to be responsive to the really amazing original architecture.”

These changes will allow the museum to showcase more of its collection of art from China, Korea, Japan, India, the Himalayas and Southeast Asia. Additionally, its modern lighting and electrical fixtures, new freight elevator and larger gallery space will also give it the flexibility to host temporary traveling exhibitions or larger, contemporary pieces.

“It’s very much a 21st century museum from a functional standpoint, while trying to preserve the feel of the 1930s building,” Mr. Miller said.

When the museum reopens on Feb. 8, it will host two new exhibitions: “Boundless: Stories of Asian Art,” which organizes pieces from the museum’s collection around 13 different themes, including worship, celebrations and identity, and “Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art,” featuring living artists from across Asia and their experiences as both insiders and outsiders.

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