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 (1948-2014) 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 audience's departure.
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.