The locals refer to the Seattle Art Museum as "SAM", which is cute name for a cute institution with delusions of grandeur. Most residents of Seattle are quite provincial and wouldn't know a great art museum from a Tijuana schlock shop full of black velvet paintings of Elvis Presley. SAM was built because all great cities have an art museum, and so Seattle had to have one, too. Unfortunately, they didn't have any art to put in it after they built it. There are one or two interesting objects (a very cool cape-like thing made of dog tags), but mostly it is just stuff to fill up the rooms.
This is not to say that Seattle does not have great art. Check out the private (and free) Frye Art Museum, which is full of works by the great masters. It is a secret Seattle gem, located in the semi-residential/hospital section of town, east of I-5. (704 Terry Ave)
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