New Seattle Art Museum Installation Mirrors The City

Mar 21, 2013

Mirror
Artist Rendering, Seattle Art Museum's Mirror installation
Credit Courtesy/Doug Aitken Workshop

When Seattle Art Museum opened its expanded downtown building in 2007, some people thought the main entrance on First Avenue was a little undistinguished.

One of those people was the late arts patron Bagley Wright. His wife, Virginia, says he thought the museum entrance needed to be marked in a dramatic way. "Because it looked like the entrance to an office building," she recalls.

That's going to change. Wright's last gift to the city is new, permanent artwork that's been installed on SAM's facade just above the main entrance. It's called "Mirror." Think of it as a sort of interactive glass movie screen. 

Artist Doug Aitken intends his installation to reflect the energy and movement of the city. Literally.

The glass panels on the museum's facade are equipped with computer sensors that record weather data, as well as input from traffic, noise and other street movements. That information will be sent to a main computer that is programmed with films of iconic Northwest scenes. The environmental data will alter and manipulate the stored footage, then project the altered imagery onto the glass screen. Passersby will never see the same image twice. 

"Mirror" has been five years in the making. The recession, combined with the complexity of the computer programs that control the artwork, delayed its unveiling. Virginia Wright says her husband was closely involved with the project until his death in July 2012. 

This isn't the last gift Bagley and Virginia Wright will give to Seattle Art Museum. The couple amassed a large contemporary art collection, which they've promised to SAM.

VIDEO: 'Mirror' In Action