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Tomokatsu Kawazu, a contract conservator, examines a screen from SAM's collection.

The Seattle Art Museum scored big this week, receiving a $3.5 million challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create an Asian Paintings Conservation Center. Charged with conserving, mounting, and studying Asian paintings, the center will be the “only one of its kind in the Western United States,” says Rachel Eggers, SAM’s manager of public relations.

The center will be located at the Seattle Asian Art Museum once the museum’s longstanding renovations wrap up, but Eggers notes that “it was a whole separate initiative, long in the making.” In fact, though SAM’s own collection will certainly benefit, the center will also work with institutional and private collections.

As for the challenge portion of the grant, the Mellon Foundation has tasked SAM with raising $2.5 million of its own over the next four years to support the center. SAM has a long history with the Mellon Foundation, which created an endowment in 2000 to found the museum's conservation department and the position of chief conservator.

Devoted to “the very specific needs” of Asian paintings, the center builds on that legacy of conservation. A viewing window will allow visitors to peer into the conservation facility and new displays will spotlight conservation projects and processes. Asian Art Museum’s massive renovation and expansion, of which the conservation center will be a focal point, is scheduled for completion in 2019.

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