What are you lookin at?
  • By Paul Gauguin/Courtesy the National Gallery of Scotland
  • What are you lookin' at?

This morning, Seattle Art Museum is hosting the press preview for Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise. The exhibition opens Thursday. There are virtually no works of art in the Pacific Northwest by the Peruvian-descended French artist Paul Gauguin, according to an essay in the big, fat, hardcover catalog by former SAM director Derrick Cartwright.

This is the first time the museum has ever held a significant display of his works—driven in part by the fact that SAM's Polynesian holdings eclipse its Gauguin non-holdings.

And this show is meant to be different from the rest of the Gauguin shows, which over the years have tended to exacerbate the awfulness of Gauguin's racist, sexist adventures on the "primitive" islands of French Polynesia at the dawn of the 20th century.

"This time," organizers of the show write, "the artworks of Polynesia do not merely serve as a visual background."

How do you solve a problem like Gauguin? We are about to see.