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Frye Art Museum reopens: Three new exhibitions celebrate 60th anniversary in refurbished galleries
Charles Sprague Pearce. Sainte Genevieve, 1887. Oil on canvas. 82 x 66 in. Courtesy of an anonymous lender. Photo: Spike Mafford.

SEATTLE, WA.- The Frye Art Museum reopened July 14, 2012 with three new exhibitions celebrating its 60th Anniversary following extensive refurbishment of the galleries, Gallery Café, Museum Store, and public spaces.

Opening exhibitions showcase both the Founding and American Collections of the Museum and introduce one of China’s leading conceptual artists, Liu Ding, with a specially commissioned work based on Sin by Franz von Stuck, one of the Frye’s iconic paintings.

“The Perfection of Good-Nature”: The Frye Founding Collection examines for the first time the impact of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago on the collection of Charles and Emma Frye, founders of the Frye Art Museum, and reveals Charles Frye’s vision of a “Seattle Art Museum” in 1915.

Liu Ding’s Store: Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart, the first solo exhibition in the United States of work by Liu Ding, also includes an intervention by the artist in the Museum Store.

Ties That Bind: American Artists in Europe showcases paintings from the Frye collection by American artists who lived in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Fifteen years after the 1997 architectural renovation of the Museum by Rick Sundberg and Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, the Frye has been transformed. A stunning, stark white on white palette throughout the building accentuates the cadences of the original architecture and galleries, showcases artworks to their best advantage, and intensifies vistas of the Museum’s courtyard and reflecting pool.

“We are delighted to welcome visitors back to Frye Art Museum following this transformation of the building,” said Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Director of the Museum. “The original flow of gallery spaces has been restored by opening passageways that have been closed for years; all of the walls have been skim coated with plaster and, along with the ceilings, painted cloud white. Sanding and clear coating of the original red oak floors has added a heightened sense of light and space throughout the Museum. The renewal of the Frye on the occasion of our 60th anniversary makes manifest Charles Frye’s enduring gift to the people of Seattle.”

To mark the Museum’s 60th Anniversary, Beloved: Pictures at an Exhibition, a handsome catalogue containing full-page color reproductions of more than 30 paintings in the Frye Art Museum collection, is available for purchase in the Museum Store. The 112-page book contains essays by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker including new scholarship on the evolution of the art collection of Charles and Emma Frye which comprises the Museum’s Founding Collection.

The Frye’s newest publication also contains a biographical sketch of Frieda Sondland, co-curator of the Museum’s recent and enormously popular exhibition, Beloved: Pictures at an Exhibition.

“The Perfection of Good-Nature”: Frye Founding Collection (July 14–September 23, 2012)
Organized on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Frye Art Museum, “The Perfection of Good-Nature” traces for the first time the history of the collection of Charles and Emma Frye following the young couple’s visit to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It also reveals Charles Frye’s visionary plan in 1915 for an art museum in Seattle’s Volunteer Park that would have brought together the finest collections in Seattle at the time under one roof.

Although documentation on the history of the Frye Collection is sparse, it appears that Charles and Emma Frye developed their passion for art at the Columbian Exposition, which served as inspiration, and possibly even a template, for the painterly subjects and artists the young couple would subsequently collect over the next four decades. Three German pictures in the Columbian Exposition were reputedly in Charles Frye’s possession in 1930, including Dutch Woman and Child by Albert Neuhuys. A number of canvases the couple later purchased also bear close similarities to paintings by artists of the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft (Artists’ Association) that were included in the Exposition.

The Fryes’ early preference for the naturalism favored by the artists of the Künstlergenossenschaft would soon give way to a penchant for the more experimental canvases of artists associated with the Munich Secession, including its founders Ludwig Dill, Hugo von Habermann, Franz von Stuck, and Fritz von Uhde. The Secessionists, who celebrated their inaugural exhibition a few months after the Columbian Exposition opened, were distinguished by their insistence on extreme individualism and stylistic diversity.

The Fryes began acquiring paintings at the latest by 1909, when Charles Frye lent the painting Marguerite (now lost) by the popular French artist Léon Bazile Perrault to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. Despite this early purchase of a French canvas, the Fryes were convinced that the finest art of their day was to be found in Germany, and they began to assemble a collection dedicated to German art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This dedication remained undiminished during, and following, the Great War, despite the unpopularity of all things German at that time. The couple continued to acquire paintings until the 1930s.

In 1915 Charles Frye approached the Seattle Fine Arts Society with his vision to establish a museum in Volunteer Park and asked for their support. Frye had obtained the agreement of City Council to set aside four acres of Volunteer Park for an art museum, with free light and water, and had produced plans for a temporary building to accommodate three hundred paintings. A permanent structure would have been erected in units. Society members declined to support the project. Parallel to these efforts to initiate what would have been Seattle’s first public art museum, Charles and Emma Frye embarked on the construction of their own private art gallery, which adjoined their residence on Seattle’s First Hill. The Frye Gallery became an important part of the social and philanthropic life of Seattle and hosted lectures, charity events, and tours.

Emma Frye passed away in 1934, Charles Frye in 1940. In their wills, the Fryes bequeathed their collection to the Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park, which had been founded in 1933 by Dr. Richard E. Fuller and his mother, Margaret McTavish Fuller, in a partnership with the City of Seattle that was similar to that proposed by Charles Frye in 1915. When the Seattle Art Museum declined the gift, Walser Greathouse, the executor of Charles Frye’s estate and the Frye Art Museum’s first director, then ensured that the conditions of the will would be fulfilled. An alternative site was found on First Hill, within a block of the Fryes’ home and their beloved private gallery, and the Frye Art Museum opened its doors on February 8, 1952.

Charles Frye, who believed that “Art is, indeed, the perfection of good-nature,” had stipulated that access to the Frye Founding Collection always be free —a gift that the Frye Art Museum continues to honor to this day.

Liu Ding’s Store: Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart
July 14–September 23, 2012

The Frye Art Museum presents the first solo exhibition in the United States of work by one of China’s leading conceptual artists, Liu Ding.

Liu employs the economic model of a shop as a platform for discussion on the creation of value in the art world. Liu Ding’s Store was launched in the summer of 2008. Besides selling works online (, Liu Ding’s Store frequently makes appearances in an assortment of contexts and situations, from social and cultural events to art exhibitions. Through different approaches that include product pricing, promotion, marketing, and circulation, Liu seeks to investigate, understand, and discuss value—particularly the complex characteristics of value in art—as well as the rules, mechanisms, and politics behind the creation of value. At the same time, it is an art practice that expresses the artist’s political imagination.

At the Frye Art Museum Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart showcases a specially commissioned “product line” from Liu Ding’s Store; unfinished paintings custom-made in a factory in a large quantity according to the artist’s orders. For the Frye, Liu has created a new series of unfinished paintings of various dimensions based on the Museum’s iconic painting Sin by Franz von Stuck.

The artist’s gesture of signing these paintings brings attention to the artworks’ potential to increase in value and provokes questions concerning the definition of art, authorship, the role of artists, and the relationships that fuel the production and circulation of artworks. In the business of acquiring works of art, Liu argues, what is being traded is something imperceptible—a possibility that the artist could become a “legend.” The buyer and the seller are tied by a common interest, and the made-to-order paintings are markers of this shared interest.

To date, Liu Ding’s Store has developed four product lines: “Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart,” “The Utopian Future of Art, Our Reality,” “Conversations,” and “Friendship.” Recently, in “Conversations,” Liu has been experimenting with new forms of audience engagement, participation, and learning.

Born in 1976 in Changzhou, China, Liu Ding is both an artist and curator. In 2009 he was chosen to represent China at the 53rd Venice Biennale in a group exhibition titled See a World in Grain of Sand. Among the distinguished international institutions that have exhibited Liu’s work are Kunsthalle Wien, Austria; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil; Arnolfini, Britain; the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Italy; Seoul Museum of Art, Korea; and Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Norway. In China, Liu Ding has participated in exhibitions at Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai.

In the summer of 2012 Liu Ding will participate in the launch of the Tate Modern’s new experimental program, The Tanks.

In 2011 Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu co-curated Little Movements: Self-Practices in Contemporary Art at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Shenzhen. Together, with Su Wei, they were invited to curate the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, entitled Accidental Message: Art is Not a System, Not a World, which runs from May 12 to August 31, 2012.

Ties That Bind: American Artists in Europe (July 14–September 23, 2012)
Ties That Bind: American Artists in Europe features paintings from the collections of the Frye Art Museum by American artists who lived, studied, and worked in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Europe became more accessible to American artists after the Civil War (1861–65), many young painters desired to experience the art and culture of the Continent. These bold artists made the long journey across the Atlantic in hope of acquiring new techniques and basking in the presence of masterpieces hanging on the walls of great European museums.

Many American artists returned to the United States familiar with the latest art movements in Europe and with a renewed interest in forging a uniquely American style. For example, armed with knowledge of French Impressionism and its loose brushwork and light palette, artists like Childe Hassam and John Twachtman were able to champion their vision of American Impressionism. Exposure to German portraiture emboldened American painters like Frank Duveneck, Robert Henri, and William Metcalf, who experimented with light, color, and bravura brushwork involving thick, flowing brushstrokes. New approaches to landscape painting were studied in academies in Düsseldorf and Munich by Albert Bierstadt and Henry Raschen, who used German techniques to depict the undaunted spirit of the American West. This exhibition also includes works by John White Alexander, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, George Inness, Charles Sprague Pearce, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeil Whistler, painters who experimented with the uncompromising Realism and Impressionism they encountered in European art capitals, including Paris, London, and Munich.

Some American artists found inspiration in established academies such as the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian in Paris, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Others were drawn to the collective experiences of small art colonies, like Duveneck’s artist community in Polling, Bavaria, and the famed sketching grounds in Dordrecht, Holland.

Inevitably, many of the painters in this exhibition crossed paths: they visited each other in small villages, or sketched together in classes at the academies. Their works would often be shown together in American exhibitions, where critics compared their diverse interpretations of Continental influences. They also participated in important European exhibitions, like those of the Munich Secession and the Paris Salon, where Americans comprised the largest national group of foreign artists. Together these artists freely exchanged ideas, often returning to the United States with the desire to paint their homeland with a bold reinterpretation of the techniques they learned from their European peers.

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