Whenever I return to Seattle, I always like to stop at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), which contains a small but well-curated collection ranging from ancient egypt to present-day Washington. Right over the ticket counter hangs an enduring favorite, “Inopportune: Stage one,” a 2004 sculpture by Cai Guo-Qiang that manages to make a series of exploding cars look both distressing and festive. I also never miss the excellent collection of Northwest Native American art, the glowing Porcelain Room, and Lucas Cranach’s exquisite “The Judgment of Paris.”
On the opposite side of downtown in the shadow of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass opened in 2012 as a showcase for Dale Chihuly’s joyously colorful glass sculptures. This jewel of a museum displays the Seattle-based artist’s works to memorable effect in beautifully lit indoor galleries, suspended in an airy conservatory, and interspersed among carefully tended gardens. Throughout, surreal forms inspired by the natural world come together in Technicolor landscapes that are a delight to explore.