The façade of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which officially reopens to the public on February 8.
The façade of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which officially reopens to the public on February 8. Courtesy of Tim Griffith/SAAM

In a month's time, the Seattle Asian Art Museum will finally be open to the public, after a $56 million, two-year renovation. Here are a few points to bear in mind as you gear up to face the crowds during the newly refurbished space's inaugural few weeks:

The opening weekend will be free. On Saturday, February 8 and Sunday, February 9, for 12 hours each day, the museum will be open to visitors for the price of a quick jaunt through Volunteer Park. There will be programming and tours through the space, though the timed tickets must be reserved in advance and are almost sold out—so get on that. In the future, the SAAM will be free to all visitors on the First Thursday, First Saturday, and Second Thursday of each month.

The permanent collection will not be organized by country or time, but by theme. Curator of Chinese art Ping Foong and curator of Japanese and Korean art Xiaojin Wu from SAM, along with consulting curator of South Asian art Darielle Mason, collaborated on refiguring the SAAM's permanent collection into 13 different themes. They grouped the objects together according to their relationship to spirituality, fashion, divinity, material, text, storytelling, etc., mixing contemporary with ancient across cultures and regions.

Though it's rather unusual for theme to dictate how a permanent collection is displayed in a museum, it is certainly refreshing, allowing for connections that normally wouldn't be made in a stodgily arranged exhibition space, where things are arranged by our modern conception of borders or cultures. Time is a construct, a flat circle, everything is connected, etc.

Reglazed glass!
Reglazed glass! Courtesy of Tim Griffith/SAAM
The two year renovation saw more gallery space added and a climate control system put in place so things don't rot on the walls (though, artistically, I'm fascinated by the idea of hanging rotten art). The Art Deco, Carl F. Gould-designed building that houses SAAM had not been significantly renovated since its construction in 1933. Jim Crow was still legal then, y'all! Some highlights of the refurbishment include: a new glass-enclosed park lobby; a new gallery, education studio, conservation center, and community room; restoration of one interior and two exterior fountains; cleaning of the façade's metalwork and reglazing of glass; cleaning and preservation of the original sandstone façade.

Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art will be the first special exhibition in the space: It'll feature 12 Asians artist who work, have worked, or live primarily outside of Asia, exploring their "experiences as both insiders and outsiders and their simultaneously Asian and global perspectives." The show will be made up of works from both SAM's holdings and private collections. A highlight: Miwa Yanagi's "Yuka."

Yuka by Miwa Yanagi.
"Yuka" by Miwa Yanagi. Courtesy of SAAM