Art That Sticks: The Strange Beauty of the Seattle Gum Wall

The Gum Wall in Seattle, Washington.
The Gum Wall in Seattle, Washington.
Seattle Gum Wall. Photo by Jason Leung

Just down the street from Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, is one of the most unusual installations of public art in modern times. Known as the Seattle Gum Wall, it is a colorful, quirky collection of chewing gum, added one piece at a time by passers-by. The wall has gained fame as a favorite photo spot for residents and visitors to the Pacific Northwest.

Since the 1990s, people in Seattle have contributed their wads of gum and coins to the wall, located outside the former Post Alley’s Market Theater (now known as Unexpected Productions’ Market Theater). Rumor has it that theater patrons started sticking unwanted gum to the wall as they waited in line. As the years passed, the wall gained a reputation for its impressive layers of gum, and it became a citywide attraction.

A closer look at the Seattle Gum Wall in Washington.
Seattle Gum Wall. Photo by Ben Curry

The Gum Wall has made multiple lists as one of the germiest attractions in the world, along with spots like the Blarney Stone in Ireland and Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Paris.

In 2015, the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) spent 130 hours pressure-washing and scraping the wall, removing over two tons of gum in the process. The clean canvas did not last long, however, and the 50-foot wall is once again covered in gum and coins.

Some even take their contributions to the wall a step beyond a simple wad of gum, creating designs, words, and patterns in the sticky facade.

While other gum walls exist across the United States, the Seattle Gum Wall was the first of its kind. Its odd and colorful backdrop is sure to be a Seattle landmark for years to come.