LAWRIMORES THE GUY IN RED Hes flanked by Buster Simpson (left), Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (Frye director), and Dave Buck (Frye board president).
  • LAWRIMORE'S THE GUY IN RED He's flanked by Buster Simpson (left), Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker (Frye director), and Dave Buck (Frye board president).

Major players are once again shifting in Seattle art museum ranks: Scott Lawrimore announced this morning he's leaving the Frye, where he's been second in command for 18 months. He's got another job—a newly created position at an already existing local institution, he says—but he won't say where yet.

On the phone just now, he claimed he'd been "in the Frye for the long haul, but something popped up, and it was just too big an opportunity to pass up. ...I'm going to have to flex some muscle I haven't flexed for a while and I'm excited about that greater contribution."

What greater contribution? Which muscle?

"It's funny, it's gonna be both physical and mental," was all he would say.

Will he be curating art exhibitions?

"That's an interesting question," he said. "Um, yes. It'll have a component of that." Then he laughed at his sneakiness. He's always dangled secrets in public. He's a charismatic salesman. Both good-natured and slick.

The Frye's structure is somewhat unusual in that director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker also acts as a forceful curator. I asked Lawrimore: Is it hard to work with Danzker, given her hands-on management of exhibitions?

"Jo-Anne took an amazing chance to bring me to the museum, and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity. Period," was all he would say.

Given that Robin Held went to head the smart media literacy and education organization Reel Girls after leaving this same post at the Frye, who can say where Lawrimore's landing? He's a mischievous and brilliant curator, like Held.

For years he worked quietly, as an assistant in galleries owned by other people. Then, bang! In 2006, he opened a daredevil of a gallery, Lawrimore Project. There were exciting Decembers in the sun at the Miami art fairs, and buzzy parties at every opening. SuttonBeresCuller built an entire restaurant in the space, a cavernous old sign-company headquarters located next to the former INS building. Susan Robb powered a mini-campfire with Lawrimore's daily droppings. Caleb Larsen kicked off his sculpture that sells itself continuously on eBay. Veteran sculptor Cris Bruch got a beautiful, museum-worthy survey. Sound art, performance, brainy photographs, pieces of architecture dangling from the I-beams—everything fashionable was presented there, with a balance of flash and care.

At the Frye, Lawrimore's greatest achievement is last year's Buster Simpson exhibition and catalog. No curator had before wrestled Simpson, an early environmental and public artist, into a museum. The show crackled, despite its need to represent works that live outdoors elsewhere, or are long-finished performances.

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"I'm really proud of the fact that in just 18 months, I was able to curate or co-curate 14 exhibitions, and that is both a testament to the ambition of the institution and the ability of our amazingly talented crew and staff here," Lawrimore said. He called it an "amazing level of support across all departments, from the preparatory crew to ...communications."

He'll continue at the Frye through the May and June openings of the upcoming exhibitions Aaron Flint Jamison: Veneer 10 of 18 (part of it is a performance between the artist and curator over lunch at the Pentagon) and the multimedia bonanza Your Feast Has Ended: Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin, and Nep Sidhu.