The Frye was a forgotten museum for awhile, frequented only by Seattleites who would come visit their favorite paintings from the permanent collection (mostly 19th- and 20th-century pastoral scenes.) But a new curator shook the Frye out of its torpor, and now, in addition to its beloved permanent collection, this elegant building hosts eclectic and often avant-garde exhibits, putting this museum on par with The Henry in the U-District. Thanks to the legacy of Charles and
Emma Frye, the museum is always free, and parking is free as well. Past shows have included "Susie J. Lee: Of Breath and Rain" a new-media sensualist who filters and distills technological noise in her work, and "Ties that Bind: American Artists in Europe." No matter what's going on in the stark, brightly lighted back galleries, it always seems to blend well with the permanent collection, which is rotated regularly.
Charles and Emma Frye amassed a huge collection of late-19th- and early-20th-century European, particularly German, paintings. Their core collection is particularly strong on the Munich Secession artists and includes Sin by Franz von Stuck.
In addition, the Frye's permanent collection features paintings by American artists, including Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, and John H. Twachtman.
Perhaps because of the challenges of integrating such a conservative collection with avant-garde contemporary works, the Frye excels at providing context for its shows. Supplemental materials are clear and accessible, and public programs, lecture series, and classes are often on offer.
The museum is small enough that you can move through it in an hour, but you could easily spend more time here, too.
The café, which serves made-from-scratch soups and sandwiches, Macrina Bakery pastries, and loose-leaf teas, is a local favorite. It also has free Wi-Fi access.
The Frye is best midweek. Because of its size, weekend crowds can overwhelm the space and detract from its charm.
Public and private tours are available, including "Tea and Tours" every Tuesday at 2 pm during the first four weeks of a new show, in which visitors can discuss what they've seen over tea in the café with Frye curators.
Download podcasts on exhibits past and present at www.fryemusem.org/podcasts.
Jun 18, 2005
Unique and Extraordiary Art, Clean and Friendly