The Seattle Art Museum and the SAM Remix 2016
The Seattle Art Museum, three times a year, throws an event called SAM Remix. The latest event was “inspired by SAM’s exhibitions Graphic Masters: Dürer, Rembrandt, Hogarth, Goya, Picasso, R. Crumb and new art at the Olympic Sculpture Park including Tamiko Thiel’s ‘Gardens of The Anthropocene’ and Victoria Haven's ‘Blue Sun.’” The night allowed participants to choose their own adventure in an “evening of performances, tours, dancing and more at this creative late-night out.”
On August 26th, just a few days ago, I went to my first one. The party I’m sure is meant to engage an active audience, a good way to find new members and patrons while simultaneously breathing new life into the museum model. According to the research, it's working: “Remix attendance started at 200, and now the quarterly event regularly sells to a capacity crowd of 2,800. About 50 percent of the attendees are young adults.”
I went for an out-of-town date. The Remix was a great blend of summer outdoor warmth and bustling crowds. The Olympic Sculpture Park, created and operated by the Seattle Art Museum. The park, on 8.5 acres and has been free and open to the public, in downtown Seattle, since opening in 2007.
I arrived with my date (whom I had met recently in Portland) and some of his friends who were also attending that evening. We quickly stumbled our way into a tour with Emily Pothast, a visual artist, musician, and writer. She took us to two sculptures at opposite ends of the park. One, ‘Persephone Unbound’ by Beverly Pepper, showed that Pothast had a lively, hip energy, about her descriptions. Less composed, more amazed at the work and stories behind them -- like a fan sharing an artist she loved while chattering into a barely-audible mobile speaker. My date and his entourage decided to move along somewhere else after the first statue, I followed Pothast.
The other statue she took the crowd to, past the dance floor, past the bars, brought us to an overhang overlooking the Sound and a statue called 'Father and Son,' by Louise Bourgeois. We looked down upon the rising water of the fountain, at that moment showing off the father while the child remained hidden from jets streaming around them. Music thumping in the background, voices clamoring over each other. The music and art felt come to life in this sculpture, the energy washing over you, and yet the pair still out of reach.
Myself, my date, and his friends, were possibly the ideal patrons. We were engaged, we moved around, danced, praised, and critiqued (my biggest complaint would be the musical performers inside the Honey Buckets, a PNW term/brand for ‘latrine’). We sat in the long lines for the bars, and were almost too liquor-tinged to complain about them. The night was warm and alive. At one point, two dance performances erupted near the second statue: more than 10 dancers moving in unison, all dressed in white, but then disappearing just as quickly, and with little warning. The crowd moved back into the dancers’ space the second the performance appeared concluded. It was a night of passive chaos.
Before the night was over, I left behind my group one more time to watch a big outdoor screening of one of my favorite animes, Cowboy Bebop – a story of space and human wandering. Of characters shuffling through their lives, bounty hunters and misfits floating through the galaxy. The screen had a view of the space needle, lit up in the distance. I didn't find Picasso that evening, or Dürer – maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. Or maybe some of the art was just hidden in the night.