The entrance to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. [Image by Dolgorjav Jigmedsenge]

Recent Renovation of Asian Art Museum Modernizes Original Gallery in Seattle


The Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), located in the heart of Volunteer Park in Seattle, is a vibrant and engaging institution dedicated to highlighting the rich and diverse cultures of Asia.

It is one of the few museums in North America dedicated exclusively to Asian art, now, a newly renovated SAAM is offering a unique opportunity to experience cultures across Asia through its artistic traditions.

SAAM opened its doors to the public in 1933 at its current location in Volunteer Park, under the name of “The Seattle Art Museum”. This was made possible with a generous donation of $250,000 from the new president of the Art Institute of Seattle at the time, Dr. Richard E. Fuller, and his mother, Mrs. Margaret E. MacTavish Fuller to the city of Seattle for a museum building.

In 1994, the museum was rededicated as Seattle Asian Art Museum to provide a space for the exhibition and preservation of Asian art. It features an impressive collection span over 5,000 years of history and includes art from China, Japan, India, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Visitors to the museum can view a wide range of art forms, including ancient sculptures, ceramics, and paintings, as well as contemporary works by Asian artists.

Patrons can also learn about the history and traditions of Asia and how these cultures have influenced each other over the centuries. Overall, the museum offers a wonderful way to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the art and culture of Asia.

In addition to its impressive collection, the Seattle Asian Art Museum hosts a variety of exhibitions and educational programs. These programs are designed to provide visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the cultures of Asia, often including lectures, workshops, and other interactive events.

In February 2020, SAAM opened after a 3-year closure due to a $56 million renovation. However, one month after its re-opening, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the museum to close its doors again. It has now reopened as the pandemic has eased. Through its renovation, SAAM truly restored its historic structure while modernizing the original gallery.

The renovation added an education program space that enables hands-on experiences during group tours with students and families. This space is also designed to be utilized to organize community activities, and workshops to introduce Asian arts. Another important highlight of the renovation was its additional footprint into Volunteer Park. Through this renovation, the museum gained 13,900 square feet that allowed a unique interior space that connects the museum up to the park.

One of the museum's highlights is its beautiful art deco building, designed by architect Carl F. Gould. The building itself is a work of art, with its elegant lines and intricate details. Inside, the museum is spacious and well-lit, providing a comfortable and inviting atmosphere for visitors to enjoy the art on display.

The Seattle Asian Art Museum is a wonderful institution that offers something for everyone. Whether you are a lover of art, a student of art and history, or simply someone who is curious about the cultures of Asia, the museum is sure to provide an enriching and enjoyable experience. If you are in the Seattle area, be sure to make time to visit this fascinating educational institution.

Dolgorjav Jigmedsenge is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington DC. She recently obtained her MPS degree at Cornell University with a minor in International Development and Development Economics.