Tim Griffith

On Saturday, February 8, the Seattle Asian Art Museum will finally reopen to the public, after a $56 million, almost three-year renovation. The refurbished museum—which had not been significantly overhauled since its building's construction in 1933—features a new gallery, education studio, conservation center, and community room; a climate-control system so things don't rot on the walls; a new glass-enclosed park lobby; and the restoration of one interior and two exterior fountains.

Another major change: The permanent collection will not be organized by country or time period, but by theme. Curator of Chinese art Ping Foong and curator of Japanese and Korean art Xiaojin Wu (both from Seattle Art Museum), along with consulting curator of South Asian art Darielle Mason, collaborated on refiguring SAAM's permanent collection into 13 different themes. They grouped the objects according to their relationship to concepts like spirituality, fashion, divinity, material, text, and storytelling—mixing contemporary work with the ancient across cultures and regions.

This arrangement allows for connections that wouldn't normally be made in a "traditional" curation of a permanent collection, where things are arranged by our modern conception of borders or cultures. Time is a construct, a flat circle, everything is connected, etc.

Tickets to the opening weekend (February 8–9) are sold out, but the museum will start its regular hours on Wednesday, February 12. When you go, be sure to check out Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art, the first special exhibition in the space.