CAP is a new model of art-collecting--work bought by a group of collectors and eventually donated to an institution--administered and taste-driven by former gallery owner Linda Farris [see "Is Permanence Best?" The Stranger, Oct 19, 2000]. The group had assembled a body of over 30 pieces of contemporary work that otherwise wouldn't have graced Seattle's galleries, featuring paintings and photography by young, mostly female artists such as Lisa Yuskavage, Kim Dingle, and Justine Kurland. At the time, it seemed that SAM--whose energies did not tend significantly in the direction of contemporary art--was an unlikely home for it. Farris had even suggested that the collection might go out of the region if no institution showed suitable interest. But that was before Corrin, who has worked at both the Contemporary Art Museum in Baltimore and the Serpentine Gallery in London, replaced Trevor Fairbrother in SAM's top curatorial seat.
Did Corrin's contemporary-art slant have anything to do with the acquisition? "Oh, God, yes," Farris said. "Everyone at SAM, from Mimi Gates and [Virginia] Wright on down has shown a renewed commitment to new work, but it was Lisa who saw the relationship between this collection and the museum's."
This last was a revelation to me about curatorial practice. It's not, as Corrin explained to me, that you "go off into left field, trying to buy works that can't be contextualized" by the museum's existing strengths; there are neat (and deep) matches between the work in CAP's collection and SAM's--such as Brad Kalheimer's paintings about Native American identity and SAM's existing Native American work, or Cecily Brown's energetic abstraction that descends directly from de Kooning. There's another bonus: "This almost can't be called contemporary work," Corrin added. "It's of-the-moment. You can still smell the paint." EMILY HALL