Frye Art Museum Reopens

Closed since early spring for refurbishment and gallery updating, the Frye Museum reopened last week with three new exhibits. The Frye had left behind its image as Seattle’s stodgy museum some years ago, and now with newly painted and flow-through galleries it has additional opportunities to highlight its founding collection and present provocative new exhibitions.

Two of the three opening exhibits focus on works from its own collection. The third show, the first in this country, by celebrated Chinese conceptual artist Liu Ding, “Liu Ding’s Store: Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart” raises important questions about the relationship between art and the marketplace.

Located in the gift shop and the hall that joins the museum’s entry with its rear galleries the exhibit features Liu’s somewhat minimalist take on the Frye’s iconic painting “Sin” by Franz von Stuck. Liu contracted with a Chinese factory to have its workers copy, in different sizes, his adaptation of the original work as well as its frame. The Liu “originals” are on display. The copies, in “sales racks” face the wall with Liu’s signature on the back of each. They are all for sale, and, as each is sold, it will be removed from the gallery.

Sound bizarre? Well stop and think about it. For how many years have artists had ateliers where workers create art for the master who takes the credit? Think back to the Renaissance, to Rodin. Think about Andy Warhol, Murakami, Chihouly. Who is author of the art? What sets the value? How does marketing impact value? Is art an aesthetic or commercial commodity? Does it matter? Liu Ding gives us much to think about.

“Ties that Bind: American Artists in Europe” features paintings from the Frye collection by Americans influenced by their sojourns overseas. It’s refreshing to see work by artists not often displayed at the Frye. Paintings by Twachtman, Inness, Chase, Cassatt, Eakins, and Whistler among others are hung with lots of space around them so viewers can really concentrate on each work.

The third opening show, “The Perfection of Good Nature: The Frye Founding Collection” includes a number of old favorites but relates them to the impact that the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago had on Charles and Emma Frye as they began their collection and how the collection became Charles Frye’s vision of a Seattle Art Museum.

Frye also announced that Scott Lawrimore will join the staff on Oct. 15 as Deputy Director, Collections and Exhibitions. Lawrimore is a familiar figure in Seattle’s art world. For the past six years he was the creative force behind the Lawrimore Project, a Seattle contemporary art gallery that featured leading local artists as well as innovators from further a field.

So, new staff and three new exhibits to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the museum. And now, with its newly finished floors, its refined public spaces and the better flow though the galleries, the Frye is better than ever.

Through Sept 23 (except Liu Ding though Sept. 9), Frye Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle, www.fryemuseum.org. (Free entrance and parking)

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