Yesterday Kish and I visited the Seattle Art Museum — also known as SAM. It’s located smack dab in the middle of Seattle’s bustling downtown, and it’s worth a visit.
I like going to art museums I’m not familiar with, because you’re almost always surprised. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, sometimes it’s not. SAM falls on the positive side of the ledger. It’s a big, sprawling facility, with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore. Every time you turn a corner, you see something interesting.
During our visit, the displays included an extensive and compelling Joan Miro exhibit — boy, he sure liked to paint birds and women! — and a fabulous and beautiful collection of blown glass objects that included numerous pieces by Dale Chihuly. The museum’s standard collection is impressive and includes an interesting early American section, which blends portraits, landscapes, furniture, and other objects, Italian and French rooms, modern pieces by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, and some whimsical and thought-provoking sculptures, including an untitled piece by American artist Marlo Pascual that featured a ’40s-style glamour shot of an unknown, sad-eyed woman on which a rock had been positioned to look like a hat.
My favorite part of the collection was a large array of indigenous art, including some fantastic masks and costumes and sculptures. The masks in particular were riveting. As I looked at the colorful depictions of serpents and wolves, I thought of the strong connection the indigenous peoples felt to the natural world and how we have largely lost that connection in modern America. Maybe the piece featuring the well-dressed woman with the rock on her head speaks to that, too.
According to prosecutors, Glafira Rosales and her boyfriend sold more than 60 phony paintings in the scheme. They found a painter in Queens who produced the paintings and they applied techniques — such as heating and cooling and exposing the paintings to air and sunlight — to give them an artificially aged appearance. They then sold the paintings, claiming they were early pieces produced by modern art icons that had been part of collections by overseas clients who wished to remain anonymous. Amazingly, people fell for the scheme and paid millions for the paintings — including two Manhattan galleries that allegedly paid more than $33 million for the fakes.
It’s the kind of case that raises questions — questions like how supposed experts could fall for such a simple scheme, and how much phony art is out there on the market, being sold to unsuspecting but wealthy people who want to say that they own a Pollock or a Rothko.
It also raises an even more fundamental question: did the people who bought this art buy it because they liked it, or because they wanted to invest in a piece that they expected to increase in value? If it’s the latter, maybe that’s the big mistake on their part. Art should be about the art itself, not the name on the piece. People should buy and collect what they like — whether it was actually painted by Jackson Pollock or by a random artist in Queens. If you’re just in the market for a name, perhaps you only have yourself to blame for ending up with a counterfeit.
The black asphalt walking path around the Yantis Loop is like a dark canvas waiting for the artistic touch of snowflakes. Typically the snowfall will simply drop a white blanket that covers everything, but in some spots, where trees catch a few flakes, the path will look like a monochromatic, negative image of a drip painting by Jackson Pollock.
The effect is mesmerizing, as the mind whirs in its attempt to impose order on the chaos and seeks to find patterns and images in the randomness. It’s like laying on your back on a sultry summer’s day, staring at clouds and seeing shapes and faces.