Renovated Seattle Asian Art Museum celebrates reopening

SEATTLE — The Seattle Asian Art Museum got a $56 million renovation and visitors on Saturday got their first look at the expanded museum on Capitol Hill after nearly three years.

KIRO 7 also got a sneak peek of the revamped museum, which features an expanded lobby, and new floor to ceiling windows where visitors can take in incredible views of Volunteer Park.

“It’s beautiful. They really opened up the space a lot, so there is a lot of light,” visitor Esther Loopstra said.

With 13 galleries, the museum integrates centuries-old art with modern pieces from all over Asia, and there is a new wing for special exhibits.

The inaugural exhibit called “Be/Longing: Contemporary Asian Art” features a stunning sculpture made of military dog tags, artwork made of tiny bells used in classical dance in India.

KIRO 7 spoke with a woman who describes one exhibit like this: “Especially the one with the older woman in the motorcycle, on the San Francisco Bridge. And she just has this, like, red hair flying about, and she has a cigarette, and she’s laughing. It’s so counter-culture to how I was raised; about what an Asian woman is supposed to be, and I looked at that picture and said that’s going to be me when I’m 70,” visitor Judy Lee said.

The museum’s director said the biggest changes involved restoring the historic art deco building.

“What’s so special about this renovation is that it’s complicated but you don’t necessarily see that. So, think about putting 21st-century infrastructure inside an early 20th-century building. That’s no easy thing,” Seattle Art Museum director and CEO Amada Cruz said.

The redesigned museum also includes spaces where visitors are encouraged to interact with the art, allowing families to get hands-on, in addition to just looking at it. It is one of the few stand-alone Asian art museums in the country.

“I love that, the fact that this museum is dedicated to Asian and Asian-American art (and) that alone, to me, is means something to me, that there is a place for us. That we’re being honored and being seen,” Lee said.

On Wednesday, the museum will open to the public.