History of SAM
Dr. Richard E. Fuller and his mother, Margaret MacTavish Fuller, traveled extensively collecting Japanese and Chinese art in the early 1900s. In 1931 they gave the City of Seattle $250,000 to construct and maintain the Seattle Art Museum. Dr. Fuller, who directed SAM for its first 40 years, donated much of his own collection and acquired important works by contemporary Northwest artists such as Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and Kenneth Callahan.
Bagley Wright, art collector and longtime supporter of SAM, shares memories of Dr. Fuller.
In 1931, Dr. Richard Fuller commissioned architect Carl F. Gould to design the art deco building that is now the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It opened in Seattle’s Volunteer Park in 1933; SAM celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2008.
Some 50 years after SAM’s opening, Seattle voters approved a $29.6 million levy (with the museum raising $35 million more) to build a new 150,000-square-foot museum in the heart of the city’s downtown. The building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, opened in late 1991. The original Gould building was then renovated and reopened in 1994 as the Seattle Asian Art Museum—dedicated to exhibiting the museum's Asian art collection.
With the addition of the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park, designed by Weiss/Manfredi Architects, in early 2007, SAM provides area residents and visitors the opportunity to experience a variety of permanent and rotating art and sculpture in an outdoor setting, while enjoying incredible views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound.
Most recently, the first phase of a planned 300,000-square-foot expansion of the downtown museum opened in May 2007. This new building, which connects seamlessly to the Venturi facility, was designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture to accommodate SAM’s rapidly growing collections, exhibition programs and audiences, while increasing the city’s cultural and economic vitality.