Best Thing to Happen to Seattle This Year

Picasso

Picasso may have saved SAM. The museum lost millions in anticipated revenue after Washington Mutual's self-destruction ended a 25-year lease for eight floors of downtown office space. Couple that blow with a costly 2007 renovation and SAM was in dire straits, freezing wages, laying off employees, and borrowing nearly $10 million from its endowment. Then, with impeccable timing, Paris' Musée National Picasso closed for its own renovation and sent 150 of Picasso's works—many from the Spanish master's personal collection—on a three-city U.S. tour, with Seattle as the first stop. The economic impact that the loaned paintings and sculptures had on the museum and its neighboring businesses can't be overstated. Picasso drew more than 400,000 visitors during its four-month October-to-January run, a record for the museum's downtown venue. Membership skyrocketed, jumping 20,000 by the time the exhibit left town. Whether Picasso actually saved SAM is a debate worth having, but no one can argue that the museum isn't now sitting as pretty as the artist's mistress, Dora Maar, whose portrait was one of the show's main attractions. KEEGAN HAMILTON

 
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