Arts James Turrell at the Seattle Art Museum
On a sneak-peek walkthrough of the new Seattle Art Museum downtown yesterday afternoon, the curator Chiyo Ishikawa was ticking off which art would go where: abstract expressionism here, minimalism here, pop here, Northwest School here, and the James Turrell room over there.
Stop—what? What James Turrell room?
Oh, the one from our collection that we’ve never been able to show, even though we’ve owned it for something like 20 years, she said.
Ishikawa isn’t familiar with the specs that drive this particular piece, but in general Turrell creates dramatic environments shaped by light (remember the Henry show a few years ago?). Later last night, I ran into Beth Sellars, curator of Suyama Space (having an opening Sept. 15, by the way), who said she suspects the mystery piece was a part of the Center for Contemporary Art’s first-ever show back in the early ’80s, and that it came to SAM after that.
When the museum opens in the spring, SAM’s Turrell room will have its own specially built enclosed space (I believe on the third floor). It will stay up for what Ishikawa described as a long time, but not permanently.
With all that space SAM is extending into over the next decade, I hope eventually it will go on permanent display, providing it’s good. If the CoCA tale is correct, the piece would have the city’s history recommending it in addition to Turrell’s importance. To give you the general gist of a Turrell room, here’s one at the Yorkshire museum that resembles what was at the Henry.
More news to come: On another one of the light and space artists in Seattle.