Art in & Around the Hall
On September 12, 1998, Seattle celebrated the grand opening of Benaroya Hall with
a gala concert by the Seattle Symphony and the unveiling of major works of art commissioned
for the Hall by American modernist Robert Rauschenberg and glass artist Dale Chihuly.
Works by Anna Valentina Murch and Erin Shie Palmer are installed in Benaroya Hall
and on the surrounding site. In addition the site includes a Garden of Remembrance,
designed by Robert Murase, to honor the memory of Washington State residents who
were killed in service in World War II and the conflicts of Korea, Vietnam, Grenada,
the Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Internationally acclaimed artist Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
created a nine-panel, 12-foot-high mural for Benaroya Hall using the medium of vegetable
dye transfer on polylaminate. This work, titled Echo, was commissioned
by longtime Seattle arts patrons Virginia and Bagley Wright, and is installed above
the entrance to the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium in the Hall. A master of
diversity, Rauschenberg has worked in nearly every medium, including paintings,
silk screens, sculptures and prints. He is best known for his unique style of incorporating
paintings with various objects, which he calls "combines." This interplay of activity
in different media is at the core of Rauschenberg's work, which has been marked
throughout his career by a sense of experiment and play.
Closely identified with the Pacific Northwest, glass artist Dale Chihuly
created a new sculpture, titled Crystal Cascade, for Benaroya Hall. The
two "chandeliers," each weighing three tons, are suspended at both ends of The Boeing
Company Gallery. The chandeliers, 12 feet wide by 15 feet long, are made up of multiple
clear (or flecked with gold leaf) individual glass pieces separately attached to
a stainless steel armature and lit externally. Hung together, each glass piece contributes
to the intricate dangling form. Chihuly is renowned for his colorful glass creations
that range from dazzling table-top pieces, such as his sensuous Seaforms
and flamboyant Venetians, to massive installations such as Chihuly Over
Venice and Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000.
Mark di Suvero's towering sculpture, Schubert Sonata (1992),
was located outside on the University Street Terrace, just off the Founders Tier
Promenade of Benaroya Hall. The 22-foot high, 9,900-pound steel sculpture was relocated
to the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park in summer 2006.
Eight original drawings by well-known Pacific Northwest artist Doris Chase
(1923-2008) have been donated to the Seattle Symphony for permanent display at Benaroya
Hall. The drawings come from a collection of 500 works that Chase created between
the late 1950s to mid 1960s when former Seattle Symphony Music Director Milton Katims
invited her to observe Seattle Symphony musicians in rehearsal. From her numerous
hours of study came drawings depicting the grace and elegance of sound-in-motion.
Art enthusiasts Steve Walker, John Tschample and an anonymous donor were inspired
to donate the drawings to the Symphony after viewing them at the Chase exhibit,
"Celebrating the Seattle Symphony," held in Seattle's Friesen Gallery. The drawings
are now located in the Green Room.
The Mayor's Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs manages one of the pre-eminent
public art programs in the United States. Initiated in 1973, Seattle's Public
Art Program is financed by 1 percent of the construction costs of city-financed
buildings. These funds may be used to commission free-standing sculpture, individual
artwork for display in buildings, special projects or site-integrated artwork. Artists
Erin Shie Palmer and Anna Valentina Murch were selected from a pool of 139 artists
who competed for the Benaroya Hall commission.
Erin Shie Palmer designed a unique entrance to the Metro bus tunnel
at the plaza level of Benaroya Hall. The work consists of several different elements
that work together to modulate the experience of moving between the Hall and the
"high-tech" theme of the Metro station. Along the length of the curved concourse
wall, the tile pattern scatters like musical notes on a staff, and pixelates as
it flows toward the Metro station. A series of sandblasted tiles scattered within
the pattern depicts concepts derived from Robert Fludd's Temple of Music.
The curved aluminum ceiling, shaped to create a form reminiscent of trains and transportation,
uses neon lights to tint and shift the color. Handrails along the tunnel walls terminate
in two sculpted knobs depicting the scroll of a violin at one end and a microphone
at the other.
Four urns marking the entrance to the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium were created
by David Ruth. The urns are located in the Samuel & Althea
Stroum Grand Lobby.
Skytones by Anna Valentina Murch is a dramatic, volume
lighting artwork located in the five 20-by-25-foot niches along the upper level
of The Boeing Company Gallery. The niches are lit by concealed horizontal lines
of fluorescent lights that are programmed through a dimming panel to create an abstract
reference to a dissolving twilight. As the west view of the sky is hidden by the
building, this horizontal band of subtle, dissolving light will create the illusion
of seeing a sky through the building. The five niches connect horizontally, each
on its own dimmer, so the effect not only changes from top to bottom, but from south
to north across the length of the gallery. The lights are also programmed in sequences
that respond to the audience's entry into the concert, the intermission, and the
The Garden of Remembrance, designed by landscape architect Robert Murase
(1938-2005), is a half-acre, L-shaped garden along the south and west sides of Benaroya
Hall. Memorial walls of granite, lined by slender reflecting pools, are oriented
so that the names of the nearly 8,000 Washington State war dead since 1941 face
the western sun. Paved walks pass between the walls, trees and flower beds, and
water cascades over rough rock into two pools. Stone benches provide seating, and
a plaza accommodates gatherings of people.