Director’s Letter: Voices, Visions, and Visitors


A photograph of a woman standing next to an artwork

SAAM's Director Stephanie Stebich in front of Louise Nevelson's Sky Cathedral. Photo by Libby Weiler

We’re back! But even more importantly, you, our treasured visitors, are returning to the museum! Each month, we see the number of visitors get closer to our pre-pandemic levels. According to attendance figures compiled by The Art Newspaper, SAAM was the fourth most visited art museum in the United States in 2022, with 1.1 million recorded visits to our main building and to the Renwick Gallery. That puts us in good company, following the National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and MoMA. While it is energizing to see the museum’s physical spaces filled, our online audience is growing too. We are committed to presenting important conversations about art online for our national, and global, audiences.

Our robust exhibition schedule returns as well, with offerings that make visible ongoing museum collecting initiatives. At the Renwick Gallery is the recently opened tenth installment of the Renwick Invitational, Sharing Honors and Burdens, which expands our commitment to collecting and presenting the work of Native artists and understanding how Indigenous perspectives are shaping American art today. This carries through to Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea, the culmination of a collaborative partnership with four partner museums—The Boise Art Museum, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Utah Museum of Fine Art, and Whatcom Museum of Art—located in some of the fastest-growing cities and states in the western region of the United States. SAAM is the final stop on the national tour. Many Wests helps us to better understand the rich and varied, and sometimes contradictory, stories of the American people and their histories.

Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies, which opened in June, represents SAAM’s decades-long leadership role in collecting, interpreting, and preserving time-based media art. The exhibition features a number of recent acquisitions and breaks new ground with an interpretive strategy that makes the artworks available to Deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences. 

Media - 2022.11.5 - SAAM-2022.11.5_1 - 147440
Audrey Flack, Queen, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 80 × 80 in. (203.2 × 203.2 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Louis K. and Susan P. Meisel, 2022.11.5

Lots of energy and excitement is going into preparations for the fall opening of American Voices and Visions: Modern and Contemporary Art, our renovated and reimagined galleries on the third floor. The redesigned spaces by notable architect Annabelle Selldorf include a dedicated space for the recently acquired major video installation by Carrie Mae Weems, Lincoln, Lonnie, and MeA Story in Five Parts. Other recent acquisitions that will find homes on the third floor include works by Firelei Báez, Tseng Kwong Chi, Alison Saar, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kay WalkingStick, among others. Audrey Flack’s Queen, arguably her most iconic painting, was a recent gift from Louis and Susan Meisel; other photorealist paintings from this extraordinary gift will be featured in a nationally touring exhibition that is currently in development.

Thank you as always for your interest in all we do. See you in the galleries and online!

Stephanie Stebich, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director


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