Dungeness crabs at Pike Place Market

 

SEATTLE - It was my first visit to Seattle and I was worried. Could I possibly do justice to this city in 36 hours –see the great private and public collections as well as the architecture of Rem Koolhaas’s Public Library and Frank Gehry’s EMP, while sampling all the great food experiences Seattle has to offer, especially at the famed Pike Place Market? The answer is YES! The weather cooperated – it rained. But that’s what you want in Seattle, right? We started the festivities with dinner in a collector’s home where we were treated to an extraordinary meal by chef Nathan Lockwood of Altura Restaurant. We began with a very seasonal spring salad of miner’s lettuce, asparagus, fava beans, peas, paper-thin slices of radish, garnished with a smoky Speck. There are only two things in the world I don’t like to eat – halibut, and uni - but our main course of Alaskan halibut, freshly harvested uni, and Dungeness crab, with a crispy potato stick crust and a Meyer lemon emulsion sauce, was perhaps the best fish preparation I have ever had. We had a mascarpone gelato with little freeze-dried strawberries and an olive oil sauce to finish. 

The next morning I had a great breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel, where the buffet offered the best of local ingredients – smoked salmon, cheese from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, artisanal breads, charcuterie, and more. Then it was off to the races - my colleagues and I visited Western Bridge, an alternative space, where we loved the work of Seattle artist Dan Webb, whose masterful wood sculptures set us up nicely for Polynesian sculpture later that day at the Gauguin show. We were particularly impressed by an enigmatic sculpture of two children under a blanket carved from one block of wood - so interested in fact that we next stopped at Greg Kucera’s gallery to see more.

 

Left: Dan Webb’s Fortress (2009) at Greg Kucera; right: Alexander Calder’s The Eagle (1971) in Olympic Sculpture Park.

 

In a light drizzle we walked through the Olympic Sculpture Park, whose zigzagging ramps incorporate both the railroad tracks and a highway into a harmonic whole. The best sited sculpture there, in my opinion, is Alexander Calder’s The Eagle. Part bird, part sailing ship, it elegantly echoes the shape of the saw-tooth Olympic Mountains to the West.

As a friend and fan of Frank Gehry, I was thrilled to finally see his wild and crazy EMP Museum, whose color and materials convey the cacophony of the American rock music experience. I wish I had time to ride to the top of the Space Needle to see it from above. Then, finally, came the moment I had been waiting for – a visit to Pike Place Market, one of the oldest farmer’s markets in America, where we were highly entertained by the fishmongers who literally throw the fish to each other as the customers placed their orders.

 

(Above: Fish tossing at the Pike Place Market, via the Seattle Times)

 

Oysters and Dungeness crab cakes at Place Pigalle.

 

I saw the original Starbucks, and although I’m not a fan of their blend I did have marvelous coffee at Fonte, right next to the hotel. We lunched at Place Pigalle, sharing oysters, mussels (with a smoked bacon, shallots, and balsamic vinaigrette broth), Dungeness crab cakes, and drank a really nice light Chenin Blanc from neighboring Oregon as we watched the boat traffic on Puget Sound.

Private collection visits rounded out the afternoon, as did a visit to the permanent collection of the Seattle Art Museum, where I spent a great deal of time looking at Northwest art (when in Rome…) and the remarkable contemporary collection, highlighted by so many gifts from Ginny and Bagley Wright. I was especially interested to see an old friend – Arshile Gorky’s How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life – a painting that, for Gorky, evoked memories of his mother and childhood, and for me evoked memories of the first show I ever worked on at the Guggenheim, the 1980 Gorky Retrospective. I was also interested to see Warhol’s iconic Double Elvis, 1963, especially since we have a fantastic example from this series coming up in our Contemporary Evening Sale.   The two-paneled silver silkscreen shows an image of Elvis Presley dressed as a cowboy and pointing a gun.

 

Warhol’s Double Elvis, which will be sold at Sotheby’s.

In the evening we hosted an exceptional guided tour of the Gauguin show at SAM by curator Chiyo Ishikawa. The only U.S. venue of this show totally succeeded at fully revealing the influence of Polynesian arts and culture on Gauguin’s art. The woodcarvings were especially beautiful, and it was easy to understand how the French artist became enamored of the customs and rituals of this Pacific paradise.

 

Installation views of the Seattle Art Museum’s Gauguin exhibition. For more, go to SAM’s Facebook page.

 

The sixty paintings in the show displayed a remarkable array of styles and brushwork, and the curator did an excellent job of conveying just how desperate Gauguin was to achieve recognition and financial success in his time, which alas was not the case.  The saturated and luscious colors of the late work definitely revved us up for dinner, which we had at ART restaurant at the Four Seasons, where I enjoyed baby kale salad with local apples and a Walla Walla onion vinaigrette, and Oregon lamb three ways – riblets; merguez sausage; and a lamb chop – each perfectly spiced.

One more walk through the farmer’s market in the morning, and I was off to the airport (where sadly, there was no dining experience to be had).