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Seattle has a burgeoning art scene, with emerging as well as established artists © Jonathan Miske / Flickr
Seattle has a burgeoning art scene, with emerging as well as established artists © Jonathan Miske / Flickr

Seattle’s 10 Best Contemporary Art Galleries

Picture of Ewa Zubek
Ewa Zubek
VP Social
Updated: 11 November 2016
From Henry Art Gallery to Roq La Rue, Seattle has a burgeoning art scene, with emerging and established artists exhibiting in all manner of art spaces. The commercial and non-profit galleries of Pioneer Square and beyond offer an eclectic mix of contemporary art from across the USA and the Northwest, Washington and Seattle itself. Don’t miss out on regular art events, such as Seattle’s First Thursday Art Walk or Georgetown Art Attack.

Henry Art Gallery

Nestled within the University of Washington and founded in 1927, the Henry, which is actually a non-profit museum, is an established and highly acclaimed presence on Seattle’s art scene. Currently home to a vast collection of over 25,000 objects, the gallery brings together an array of interactive installations and exhibitions, including works by Bruce Nauman, Sean Scully and Louise Bourgeois. Although much of the permanent collection has been digitized and can be accessed via the Internet, nothing can replace walking into Light Rein, James Turrell’s Skyspace project, a profoundly spiritual site-specific installation that allows visitors to focus their attention on a single slice of the sky. At the heart of the Henry’s mission is the dynamic, open-ended (and open-minded) discourse on art – and indeed, this makes it Seattle’s foremost art destination.

Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 15th Avenue NE & 41st Street, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 543 2280

Paul Laffoley, exhibition view | Courtesy of Henry Art Gallery

Paul Laffoley, exhibition view | Courtesy of Henry Art Gallery

SOIL Art Gallery

SOIL’s origins can be traced back to 1995, when a group of ambitious local artists began their search for a space to exhibit their work. The gallery’s cooperative spirit is still very much palpable. Run by artists and for artists, SOIL organizes open-application curated shows on a biannual basis, giving emerging artists the chance to showcase their work. Be it a live reading from the artist’s seventh grade diary (Christopher Buening, 2014) or an aluminium sculpture embodying the frailty of memory (London Tsai, 2014), SOIL prides itself on its dedication to art, whatever its medium or subject matter. Legend has it that they even once exhibited ‘gerbil art’.

SOIL, 112 Third Avenue South, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 264 8061

© SOIL Art Gallery

© SOIL Art Gallery

M.I.A. Gallery

Offering a slice of the vast world of art to its visitors, M.I.A. is committed to exhibiting surprising and fresh work by contemporary artists from around the globe. By playing around with accepted representations of the status quo, each exhibition presents alternative ways of thinking and perceiving. Through this dedication to buoyant, unexpected aesthetics, M.I.A.’s exhibitions illustrate the world as a vibrant kaleidoscope. To mention but a few, Badouin Mouanda’s Sapeurs brought in a touch of flamboyancy when it showed photographs of the Congo’s extravagantly dressed sartorial devotees, while photographer Justin Dingwall and model Thando Hopa’s collaborative effort Albus traversed beauty and race with touching portraits of the South African albino model.

M.I.A. Gallery, 1203 Second Avenue, Suite A (Second & Seneca), Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 467 4927

Left: Justin Dingwall/Thando Hopa, Untitled (White Veil), 2013; Right: Justin Dingwall/Thando Hopa, Untitled (Black Veil) | Courtesy MIA Gallery

Left: Justin Dingwall/Thando Hopa, Untitled (White Veil), 2013; Right: Justin Dingwall/Thando Hopa, Untitled (Black Veil) | Courtesy MIA Gallery

James Harris Gallery

There is a reason why James Harris Gallery is unafraid of taking risks: though they launch the careers of many emerging artists, their exhibitions are characterized by meticulous curation and long-standing, international experience. The art space, which recently moved to a new location just around the corner from Pioneer Square, is also home to a number of established artists: Noah Davis, Matthais Merkel Hess and Roy Dowell to name but a few. In 2013, James Harris Gallery was Seattle’s only exhibitor at Pulse Miami, presenting an impressive range of challenging artworks, which included Adam Sorensen’s lush, utopian landscapes and Alexander Kroll’s mixed-media, multilayered collages.

James Harris Gallery, 604 Second Avenue, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 903 6220

Roy Dowell, installation view, 2013 | Courtesy James Harris Gallery

Roy Dowell, installation view, 2013 | Courtesy James Harris Gallery

Platform Gallery

Situated in the Tashiro Kaplan arts center, Platform has been in operation since 2004, making it a new – but confident and stimulating – addition to Seattle’s art scene. The main focus here is art with a profound conceptual edge: they have hosted shows with themes as diverse as gender identity as a framework for art and information overload in contemporary society. Platform’s rotating program of exhibitions mainly presents solo shows, and hence offers its undivided attention to these thought-provoking projects. Steve Lyons, the gallery’s owner, is widely appreciated for his open mind and the active support he gives to his artists – both regional and international.

Platform Gallery, Tashiro-Kaplan Arts Complex, 114 Third Avenue South, Seattle, WA, USA+1 206 323 2808

Matt Sellars, 'Supra Tidal' Exhibit | Image courtesy of Platform Gallery

Matt Sellars, ‘Supra Tidal’ Exhibit | Image courtesy of Platform Gallery

Prole Drift

Prole Drift founders Dirk Park and Jaq Chartier are both locally renowned artists and the engineers behind Aqua Art Miami, an art fair hosted at Art Basel Miami every year. Their Seattle-based gallery was established the autumn of 2011, making it a new, creative and dynamic addition to the local art scene. Dirk describes Prole Drift as a ‘non-representational gallery’ and finds great joy in his freedom to pick out artists to represent. And indeed, his exhibitions appear at once whimsical and enchanting, bringing color, energy and vibrancy to paper, a medium preferred by Prole Drift’s owners. The gallery’s frequent collaborations with organizations such as Seattle-based SEASON make it an incredibly sociable space to mingle with the local art world.

Prole Drift, 523 South Main Street, Seattle WA, USA +1 206 399 5506

Jenny Heishman | Courtesy of Prole Drift

Jenny Heishman | Courtesy of Prole Drift

Greg Kucera Gallery

In operation since 1983, Greg Kucera has developed a solid reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on Seattle’s art scene. The exhibition space opens with a large, airy hall and extends further back into a tangle of smaller rooms, each filled with artworks worthy of contemplation. But the most astonishing thing about Greg Kucera Gallery is perhaps the sculpture deck, an outdoor balcony featuring a number of wrought-iron sculptures. From Deborah Butterfield’s haunting bronze horses to Claude Zervas’ hypnotizing geometric ink paintings, Greg Kucera’s curation is at once careful and creative.

Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Avenue South, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 624 0770

 Deborah Butterfield, installation view | Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery.

Deborah Butterfield, installation view | Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

Bryan Ohno Gallery

The mind behind Urban Art Concept, an art consulting company, is Bryan Ohno, who reopened his gallery in 2013 in Seattle’s artsy International District after an eight-year-long hiatus. Equipped with a new energy, the space is small but eager to impress with a solid line-up of artists and multifaceted exhibitions. Though Ohno assures that much of the art he represents addresses the relationship between art and science, visitors will also find works with a distinctly organic feel: themes of sexuality, language and death have dominated recent exhibitions. In addition to shows by nationally recognized creatives, Bryan Ohno Gallery also opens its doors to promising young artists working across a wide variety of media and content.

Bryan Ohno, 519 S Main Street, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 459 6857

© Bryan Ohno Gallery

© Bryan Ohno Gallery

Length by Width by Height

A staunch believer in accessible and affordable art, Sharon Arnold launched LxWxH in 2011 as an art subscription project. A year later, the project evolved into a fresh, lively gallery promoting emerging artists and following Arnold’s philosophy that upon entering a gallery, people should ‘get excited about the way art shapes our lives’. LxWxH’s monthly exhibitions show just that, combining aspects of daily life such as technology or fashion with unexpected angles – the crossover of a video game and reality, or impossible fashion accessories, for example. One to watch, this Georgetown gallery has a spirit that’s at once highly individualistic and community-building. Every second Saturday, LxWxH hosts Georgetown Art Attack, a collective exhibition by and for the public.

Length by Width by Height, 6007 12th Avenue South, Seattle, WA, USA

Casey Curran, Tony Sonnenberg, Izzie Klingels, Katy Stone, installation view | Courtesy LxWxH and the artists

Casey Curran, Tony Sonnenberg, Izzie Klingels, Katy Stone, installation view | Courtesy LxWxH and the artists

Roq La Rue

Roq La Rue has always been fascinated by underground art and pop culture – and claims to have been one of the world’s first galleries with this focus when it first opened in 1998. Currently finding itself in a new, airy location in Pioneer Square, Roq La Rue still proposes the same funky, cheerful programme it has always prided itself on. Though the exhibitions here sometimes verge on kitsch with a distinctive pop feel, this is really the point: underrepresented, highly creative artists take centre stage, and retain their freedom to produce works of art that are often fantastically complex and always refreshing.

Roq La Rue, 532 First Avenue South, Seattle, WA, USA +1 206 374 8977

© Roq La Rue

© Roq La Rue