Félicitations: SAM Curator Chiyo Ishikawa Receives Chevalier L’Ordre Des Arts Des Lettres

Posted on January 18, 2018, 2:57 pm
2 mins

Dr. Chiyo Ishikawa has curated some of Seattle Art Museum’s most ambitious projects, including monographic exhibits of works by Picasso and Gauguin, and the blockbuster Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style. This week, the French government honored her work fostering the arts in France and beyond by awarding her the prestigious Chevalier L’Ordre Des Arts Des Lettres. The ceremony happened January 17, with Consul General Emmanuel Lebrun Damiens doing the honors.

This isn’t Ishikawa’s first major award from a European country. She received The Order of Isabel la Católica from HM King Juan Carlos of Spain for her work co-curating Spain in the Age of Exploration 1492-1819 in 2004.

Ishikawa and Lebrun Damiens. Photo by Natali Wiseman.

Ishikawa is known for her pragmatic approach to outreach to the community served by the museum. In curating for the Spain show, she even used focus groups, while in others she often turns to educators and experts outside of her wheelhouse.

During the construction of SAM’s current home (back when it was still WaMu tower), Ishikawa oversaw creation of some of the museum’s notable permanent installations. That includes the 17th-century Italian wood-paneled room in the northeast corner and the Porcelain Room. (Polarizing as it may be, The Porcelain Room is inarguably a different way of seeing these pieces—one that inspires wonder in younger audiences who would pass less interested by ceramics in traditional vitrines.)

In short, for her passionate and career-long drive to get audiences of all ages and knowledge levels more engaged in art, “Chiyo Ishikawa could not be more deserving of the [Chevalier L’Ordre Des Arts Des Lettres],” to quote Consul Lebrun Damiens.


See Ishikawa lecture on the SAM’s new installation, Extreme Nature, on Friday, February 2. (Reminder: Adults over the age of 62 pay no admission on the First Friday of every month.) Specifically, Ishikawa will discuss “Shipwreck off the Coast of Alaska” by Louis-Philippe Crépin.

Featured Image by Scott Areman, courtesy of Seattle Art Museum.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.