Gold Rush and Boom
The Gold Rush brings a population boom — and international attention — to California. A major earthquake and increased immigration shape the growing city of San Francisco.
Gold!"Gold!" San Francisco’s first boom plants the seed for it to grow into a major city on the West Coast. The first wave of Chinese immigrants to the Bay Area works in the gold mines and on the railroads.
Transcontinental RailroadThe First Transcontinental Railroad is built from 1863-1869, largely with Chinese immigrant labor.
Chinese Exclusion ActThe Chinese Exclusion Act is passed by Congress, initiating a ten-year stop on Chinese labor immigration. Congress later extends it and adds restrictions on existing Chinese residents. In response, West Coast- and many San Francisco-based Chinese bring more than ten thousand lawsuits to Federal court between 1882 and 1905, more than twenty of which go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Some of these cases continue to set precedents for civil rights in America, not just for Chinese Americans. In 1898, United States v. Wong Kim Ark (a cook born in San Francisco to Chinese nationals) solidified the right to citizenship if one is born on U.S. soil. Yick Wo v. Hopkins defined "equal protection under the law" in a Supreme Court case about singling out Chinese-owned laundry facilities in San Francisco for regulations, and was later quoted by the Warren Court in the 1950s more than one hundred times to overturn discriminatory laws during the civil rights movement.
Avery BrundageMuseum benefactor Avery Brundage is born in 1887 to working-class parents in Detroit. Along with collecting Asian art which forms the foundation of the Asian Art Museum's collection, Brundage studies engineering, competes in the 1912 Olympics, serves as the President of the International Olympics Committee and starts his own construction company.
California Midwinter International ExpositionThe California Midwinter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park includes a Japanese tea garden, one of the earliest Asian structures built in San Francisco.
Memorial MuseumThe Memorial Museum, pictured here in Album of San Francisco Views, approx. 1865–1906, by R.J. Waters, opens in Golden Gate Park, eventually becoming the M. H. de Young Museum and home to the Brundage Collection.
Ferry Building OpensThe Ferry Building opens in 1898, serving as the only communication hub from points east and north of the city until the 1930s.
Joan R, Family MemoriesMy great grandmother was born during the Gold Rush near Market Street. She and my grandmother lived through the earthquake. All the records were destroyed during the fire. My grandmother camped out by Golden Gate Park.Joan
San Francisco EarthquakeThe San Francisco Earthquake and subsequent fires devastate more than 80 percent of the city, resulting in about three thousand deaths. Although the museum was not even imagined at this time, its eventual neighborhood in the Civic Center was completely remade as a result of this event.
Angel IslandAngel Island Immigration Station opens and operates until 1940, processing and detaining immigrants, primarily Asians, along with Russians, Mexicans, and other groups, as well as those who are quarantined for health reasons. The process begins on the ship before any passengers are allowed to disembark, as in this photo.
World War IWorld War I, the war to end all wars (1914–18), is fought mostly in Europe.
Panama Pacific International ExpositionThe Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in the Marina District celebrates the opening of the Panama Canal and the city’s return from the 1906 earthquake. San Franciscan Isabel Stine is so inspired by the Japan Pavilion that she builds Hakone Gardens, a traditional Japanese garden, in Saratoga, not far from San Jose.
Main LibraryThe city’s new library opens, built with support from the Carnegie Foundation at a cost of $1,153,000. Little did architect George W. Kelham know that his building, pictured here in 1925-1926, would one day be remade as a world-class museum for Asian art by an Italian woman architect, Gae Aulenti.
Golden Gate BridgeThe Golden Gate Bridge begins construction in 1933, opening to the public in 1937.
Global Conflict and Collecting
Rapid societal change and worldwide unrest in the wake of World War II gives collectors like Avery Brundage the opportunity to amass unparalleled collections of Asian Art.
Avery Begins Collecting ArtInspired by the first major exhibition of imperial Chinese art in the West—London’s 1935–1936 International Exhibition of Chinese Art—Avery Brundage, a Chicago real estate developer and president of the International Olympic Committee, begins collecting Asian Art. Here, Brundage admires some of his jades in the 1950s.
UnemploymentUnemployed men sitting on the sunny side of the San Francisco Public Library (now the Asian Art Museum) by Dorothea Lange. This area is still a magnet for the city’s distressed communities, and they are no longer just men.
World War IIWorld War II brings Asian countries closer to the attention of San Franciscans as foes, allies, and battlegrounds, and inspires a new cycle of Western interest in Asian art and culture.
Women War WorkersWritten on back: "Representing twenty or more shipyard crafts. Women war workers at Marinship, shipyard at Sausalito on San Francisco bay..."
Japanese American InternmentInternment of Japanese Americans displaces families throughout the West Coast from 1942—1946, such as these families in San Francisco (1942).
Wendy Welder and ShipbuildingDuring the war, shipbuilding booms in the Bay Area, further enhancing the area’s importance on the Pacific Rim; American women break from traditional roles and work alongside men as technicians in Bay Area shipyards, such as this "Wendy Welder" in 1943 at the Richmond Shipyards.
Memorial Museum opens in Golden Gate ParkRepurposing the California Midwinter Memorial Exposition's Midwinter Fair Building, the Memorial Museum opens in Golden Gate Park (and eventually becomes the home of the de Young and Asian Art Museum).
The Society for Asian ArtThe Society for Asian Art is incorporated in 1957 as a non-profit, raising $30,000 to appraise and catalogue the Brundage Collection. Since its beginning fifty-nine years ago, the Society for Asian Art has given more than $3 million to the Asian Art Museum, to help build the endowment, sponsor more than twenty exhibitions, establish and sustain the museum’s library, underwrite at least a dozen museum catalogs and purchase works of art for the Museum. Co-chairmen are Mrs. Roger Kent and Paul A. Bissinger. The society also has offered more than 1,300 lectures, including a thousand Friday morning Arts of Asia lectures given by leading international scholars and curators; has sponsored more than twenty symposia and 250 international and domestic travel programs; organizes annual study groups, literature courses, and visits to galleries and private collections; and publishes the well-respected Lotus Leaves scholarly journal. Here, Marjorie Bissinger, dancing with Avery Brundage in 1971, was one of the Society for Asian Art organizers who tried to sweep Brundage off his feet and convince him to give his collection to San Francisco.
Sealing the Museum DealAfter some negative communications from Brundage about reconsidering his offer to donate his collection to San Francisco, Mayor George Christopher, City Attorney Lawrence Mana, and museum supporter R. Gwin Follis fly to Brundage’s Santa Barbara home to seal the deal.
Board ApprovedThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously adopts a resolution to provide funding to accept Avery Brundage’s vast and still growing collection of Asian art on the condition that the city build a new museum to house it. The first half, consisting of Chinese art, is to be donated upon completion of the museum; the rest is to be given over a period of twenty-five years.
Voters Pass Proposition AA Chinese tomb guardian from the Brundage collection serves as the mascot for the “Yes on A” poster encouraging voter support for the Society for Asian Art’s grassroots campaign to add a wing onto the de Young. From May 10 — June 12, the de Young Museum exhibits 137 selected objects from Brundage's collection, enabling citizens to view before the June primary election. Voters pass Proposition A, a $2.75 million bond issue to fund the new wing, which will house the first ten thousand objects from the collection.
Laurence Sickman on Avery Brundage
“There is good reason to believe that the objects of Asian art offered San Francisco by Avery Brundage comprise the last comprehensive collection in this field that can be assembled in our time." Laurence Sickman, former “Monuments Man” deployed during World War II to rescue stolen artworks and director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, from the catalogue One hundred objects of Asian art from the Avery Brundage Collection, 1960.
Docent CouncilThe Docent Council is formed to select potential trainees to lead tours in the new museum.
Brundage Collection SymposiumThe Society for Asian Art sponsors a symposium on the Brundage Collection attended by more than two hundred scholars, including Laurence Sickman (right) and the renowned founding father of Chinese archaeology Li Chi (center).
René-Yvon Lefebvre d'ArgencéThe soon-to-be first director of the museum, Frenchman René-Yvon Lefebvre d'Argencé, chats in storage with founding museum supporter Marjorie Bissinger. Bissinger aided in the initial cataloging of the collection before the artworks were installed.
The Immigration Act of 1965The Immigration Act of 1965 eliminates the national origin quota system that had favored immigrants from Europe to the exclusion of those from Asia, Africa, and southern and eastern Europe. The act allows for “family reunification” sponsorship of relatives by legal immigrants, transforming the demographics of the Bay Area from less than 3 percent Asian in 1960 to more than 23 percent Asian in 2010, according to Census data.
A Jewel in Golden Gate Park
After opening as the Avery Brundage Collection in the M.H. de Young Museum, the museum soon establishes its reputation for groundbreaking exhibitions.
Alice Lowe, Seeing the Collection for the First TimeThe opening was very exciting because during our study to become docents we just saw the art on slides. On a slide, all the objects look the same size. You don’t know if something is large or small. So seeing the art in person at the opening was a surprise. A jade, for example, when you see it on the slide, you see all the details and imagine it might be huge. But it’s actually very small, and the details are very fine. The size of the objects was something we had to become accustomed to.Alice Lowe
Volunteer since 1965
Sally Kirby, Romance Before Samsung HallI met my husband in 1964 when the Museum was the public library. He was working his way through Hastings law school as a librarian and I needed books for my master's thesis. We met in what is now Samsung Hall!Sally Kirby
Volunteer since 1977
First Docent ClassThe Brundage Collection’s first class of docents, one of whom is pictured here giving a tour in the 1960s, graduate from a twenty-four-week training program. Today, 137 active docents continue to provide free tours of the museum upon completion of a rigorous three-year training program.
The Brundage Collection of Asian ArtThe Brundage Collection of Asian Art opens as a two-story wing of the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park, with Frenchman René-Yvon Lefebvre d'Argencé later appointed its first director. Other staff include curators Clarence Shangraw, Yoshiko Kakudo, and Huang Woan-Jen, and conservator Roger Broussal.
Avery Brundage on the Arts“As the Olympic Movement develops international friendship and amity, so can international understanding and respect come from the study of fine arts. . . . this will be San Francisco's contribution to a happier and more peaceful world.” —Avery Brundage
Fred Cline, First Museum LibrarianFred Cline is appointed as the museum’s first staff librarian. Today, the Library holds nearly forty-thousand titles on Asian art under the leadership of librarian John Stucky, who has been at the museum since 1994.
Gay Pride CelebrationSan Francisco’s first Gay Pride Celebration is held in 1967. Here, Harvey Milk appears in 1978 at the seventh annual gay freedom parade in the city, as it passes through the Civic Center.
Society for Asian Art Woos BrundageThe Society for Asian Art leadership renews its wooing of Brundage, who had given his Chinese collection to the city, but had only loaned the rest, including art from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Japan. The Society for Asian Art’s “two Marjories” (Bissinger and Stern) recruit Jane Pettit, who was in the first docent class and a well-connected journalist, to be the next SAA president and in charge of publicity. Their successful charm offensive includes limericks from Pettit that Brundage likes so much he has some framed and hung on the wall of his Chicago office.
Once shouted a dear noisy man
(who did not know a pot from a pan):
Unless they are made
Of the rarest of jade,
Throw them out as fast as you can!
—Limerick by Jane Pettit
Vietnam WarProtests against the Vietnam War takeover Fulton street in 1967.
Jim Fousekis, My Partner's PassionMy wife Susan was one of the first docents at the Museum when it was in Golden Gate Park. A native San Franciscan and Art History graduate of Wellesley College, she found the training under first Museum Director Yvon d'Argence' very demanding, complaining when she returned from the Museum training every evening. Years later, she accompanied me on trips to Japan where I visited Japanese law clients. It was Susan who was treated as a visiting dignitary because she truly appreciated Japanese art.Jim Fousekis
Member since 1968
Terese Bartholomew, My Days Managing the Cake FundIn the early days, it was a very small staff and we had something called a cake fund. I was the youngest on the staff and every payday I had to go around making everyone give me a quarter. Then, if it was someone’s birthday, I had to go out and bring back a coffee cake, which was a dollar and a quarter in those days. Once, when a registrar had to buy life insurance, the beneficiary was the cake fund. We took it very seriously.Terese Bartholomew
Staff Member since 1966
Terese Bartholomew, An Unexpected VisitorOne day, it must have been in 1968, Mr. Brundage suddenly came into the break room and found three of us curators doing a jigsaw puzzle. He asked, “Is that what you do in my museum?” I was too shy to reply, but I thought that was really funny.Terese Bartholomew
Staff Member since 1966
Curatorial AppointmentsSylvia Ch'en Shangraw is appointed Assistant Curator of Chinese Art; Terese Tse (Bartholomew), shown here, is appointed Research Curator.
Political Activism GrowsPolitical activism grows within the Asian American community and on Bay Area campuses (including San Francisco State, pictured here) in response to diversity issues and to specific incidents such as the International Hotel evictions of mostly Filipino and Chinese residents. The Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) in Berkeley becomes the first organization to use the term “Asian American” instead of “Oriental”.
Johanna, A Former LibrarianI worked in this building as a librarian from 1969-1996. The rare book room was on the 3rd (now 4th) floor.Johanna
Fan since 1969
Brundage Makes A Second DonationAvery Brundage signs a contract with the City of San Francisco donating the second part of his collection to the city; Mayor Joseph Alioto and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors appoint the twenty-seven-member Asian Art Commission as the governing body of the museum. The Asian Art Museum Foundation is created to raise funds to support programming and staff. The museum is still run through this public-private partnership overseen by the Asian Art Commission and Foundation Trustee boards.
John Stucky, My Date with DestinyThe first time I came into the museum I was a senior in high school. My girlfriend and I went to Golden Gate Park to have tea in the Japanese Garden. We wandered over to the de Young and then into the Asian. I was enthralled. It became my favorite place in the city from that day on.John Stucky
Staff Member since 1994
Madelon Montobbip, Stolen FiguresTwo Chinese guardian figures were stolen in 1971 by two youths that rode off on their bicycles and hid the objects in their homes. When one got a divorce the spouse reported the thief, but the statue of limitations applied. My friend Gerald McCarthy was a lieutenant in the SFPD who recovered and brought the figures back to the museum. I have the letter from Mr. Robert Seller expressing the museum's appreciation and gratitude.Madelon Montobbip
Volunteer since 1984
Asian Art Museum DebutsThe museum is officially renamed the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco — The Avery Brundage Collection. That same year, the museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums), and Diana Turner (Fish) is appointed the museum’s first curator of education, bringing the previously all-volunteer-run educational functions under museum administration.
Barbara Liddell, Alone with a Flying HorseOne of my best memories was during our major exhibition of Chinese art in 1975. That show was so exciting. There were 800,000 visitors in eight weeks — being in an environment like that was amazing. I remember there was a piece in that exhibit that was a flying horse. In those days, the docents could go through the galleries by ourselves when the museum was closed. Standing in front of that horse sculpture was a great thrill. I could be in there when nobody else was, no guards, nobody. It was inspiring to be able to experience the art without the crowds.Barbara Liddell
Volunteer since 1971
Philip Tymon, My Important Summer JobIn '75 while a grad student at SFSU I got a summer job as security guard during the Chinese exhibit. Each night I had the art surrounding me. In the morning I would see all the visitors lined up. How incredible it was that I got to have all night with the exhibit to myself. In time one of the simplest pieces, among all the glittery ones, a kneeling peasant woman, became one of my favorites. Every time I came around the corner I thought I saw someone moving, she always seemed about to stand.Philip Tymon
Member since 2014
Biggest Special ExhibitionThe Exhibition of Archaeological Finds of the People’s Republic of China, organized with China as a result of the opening-up of China-U.S. diplomatic relations, draws more than 835,000 people. This is the highest attendance for any special exhibition in the museum’s history.
Proposition 13 PassesProposition 13, a limit on property taxes, is passed by California voters, which leads to decreases in city funding. The museum starts charging admission to bridge the funding gap.
The Museum Comes of Age
Following Avery Brundage’s death, the museum continues to grow its collection and solidify its status as one of the finest collections of Asian art in the world.
Ginny Meyer, A Crowing AdditionClarence Shangraw, Chief Curator, had flair along with exquisite taste and style. For the Korean Art show, 5,000 Years of Korean Art, in 1979, he wanted to place a 6th century gold crown on a pedestal at the entrance so visitors would be greeted with a dazzling demonstration of the high culture of the Silla Dynasty. Clarence ordered the raw silk fabric, a perfect celadon color from Zurich. The plane landed at 5 pm, the show opened at 6:30 the crown perfectly situated on top of the fabric.Ginny Meyer
Member since 1972
5,000 Years of Korean Art5,000 Years of Korean Art, a landmark exhibition of national treasures organized by the Asian in conjunction with the National Museum of Korea, draws 549,159 visitors, including Joan Mondale, wife of Vice President Walter Mondale. President Jimmy Carter heads the national committee for the exhibition, which tours six American cities. Here, Korean government VIPs visit the exhibition.
Ginny Meyer, Very Old ChinaWhen Clarence Shangraw, Chief Curator, asked Yoshiko Kakudo, the Japanese Curator (a painting specialist), what was the meaning of the letters on this Japanese porcelain plate, she didn't have a clue, but she was a VERY bright woman so she quickly responded with "Very Old China?" It actually stands for Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (the Dutch East Indian Company).Ginny Meyer
Member since 1972
A Royal and Presidential VisitQueen Elizabeth II of England and President Reagan attend a dinner at the de Young Museum preceded by a reception in the Asian Art Museum’s Gruhn Court.
Treasures from the Shanghai MuseumTreasures from the Shanghai Museum: 6000 Years of Chinese Art is organized by the Asian in cooperation with the San Francisco Shanghai Sister City program, the first exhibition ever organized by a U.S. museum with a museum in China. The exhibition travels to the Field Museum of Natural History, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Connoisseur's Council EstablishedThe Connoisseur’s Council is established under the leadership of Asian Art Commissioner Emma Bunker to support the purchase of objects for the collection. The Council's first purchase was a pair of ancestral figures from Bali in 1986.
Clarence ShangrawUpon the retirement of Yvon d’Argencé, Clarence Shangraw, the museum’s senior curator since 1968, is appointed acting director and then chief curator the following year. From around 1963 Shangraw, pictured here in 1975, worked alongside Avery Brundage to first catalogue the collection and prepare for the museum’s opening.
Essence of Indian ArtEssence of Indian Art is held in conjunction with the nationwide Festival of India. “It is a trove . . . and includes some 200 objects ranging from zaftig Amazonian stone dancing girls to delicate miniatures that seem wafted onto paper by perfumed breath.” — William Wilson, “India 'Essence' Exhibit Aglow With Innocence,” Los Angeles Times, August 30, 1986.
Rand CastileJapanese art specialist Rand Castile is appointed director. Castile was formerly the director of Japan House Gallery in New York.
Sharon Steckline, A Serendipitous AssignmentI was a student working towards my Master's degree in Museum Studies at John F. Kennedy University. We had to write about our favorite gallery at any local museum. I chose the Japanese galleries at the old Golden Gate Park location which overlooked the Japanese tea garden. Never would I have guessed that 5 years later I would be working at the Asian Art Museum! And I'm still here...Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
San Francisco, CA
Loma Prieta EarthquakeAfter the Loma Prieta Earthquake shakes the city of San Francisco, the museum is closed for seven days while damage is assessed. Twenty-six objects are affected; all but two are reparable. The museum establishes a full-time position for a mount maker to ensure artwork will not be damaged by future earthquakes. Voters approve a $10 million bond to fund seismic reinforcement of the Main Library, which in 1988 had been confirmed as the Asian’s future home.
Anthony Brown, Asian American Jazz FestivalIn May 1991, the 10th anniversary of the Asian American Jazz Festival (AAJF) was hosted by the Asian Art Museum. AAM Program Director Aislinn Scofield expanded the AAJF to three weekends of Saturday evening concerts featuring a wide array of artists, both national and local including the TanaReid Trio from New York and local notables Russel Baba and his trio, George Yoshida and the J-Town Jazz Ensemble, and Anthony Brown's Uptown Showdown. The tenth anniversary celebration was a grand success, and the SFAAM continued to host the Asian American Jazz Festival for the next ten years.Anthony Brown
Fan since 1991
Alice Lowe, My Dalai Lama SouvenirThe Dalai Lama’s visit is a favorite memory. He was very informal and natural. They had a luncheon for him, and I was told if you have anything personal from the Dalai Lama, it’s extra blessed. Someone gave me his dessert napkin, which had strawberry juice on it. I loved those personal touches when meeting celebrities. It shows that they’re human like us.Alice Lowe
Volunteer since 1965
Sculpture of IndonesiaSculpture of Indonesia, organized by the National Gallery of Art, is the first exhibition in the United States dedicated to ancient Indonesian art.
Storytelling Program DebutsThe museum's Storytelling program is initiated by long-time museum supporter Elaine Connell. Storytellers bring the myths and folktales associated with the artwork to life. Here, storyteller Liz Nichols shares with schoolchildren a legend from Indian mythology.
Creating a Sand Mandala at the MuseumThis sand mandala is created by monks associated with the Dalai Lama in conjunction with the exhibition Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. The partially created mandala is destroyed by a disturbed visitor, but the monks take it in stride and just start over again.
The Dalai Lama opens the first major U.S. exhibition of Tibetan art.Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet is an unprecedented exhibition of Tibetan Buddhist art, blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. One hundred and fifty-nine masterworks from 17 museums and four private collectors offer American audiences a window to Tibetan Buddhism’s realms of rebirth and enlightenment, depicted in dynamic color and exquisite detail.
Vincent Avalos, Laughed at by the Dalai LamaThe Dalai Lama came to the museum for the Tibet show and gave a blessing to the staff. I got all dressed up, wore a suit. At the time, I had hair down to my shoulders, but I had it slicked back into a ponytail to look more formal. For this blessing, the Dalai Lama would rub a white silk scarf and put it around your neck. When he went to put the scarf around my neck, he ran into my ponytail. He was surprised — then he grabbed it and started shaking it around and laughing. I think he saw this conservative-looking person from the front and was surprised there was a ponytail in the back. So I can say I’ve had the Dalai Lama laugh at me.Vincent Avalos
Staff Member since 1990
Vincent Avalos, An Ironic InterruptionA really great memory from the Tibet show was that these monks made this sand mandala, which took a couple of weeks. They were almost finished but then a person came into the museum who was unstable or hallucinating or something, and she jumped on the sand mandala and wiped it away while the monks were working on it. It was kind of ironic because they were going to wipe the sand mandala away anyway when they finished, but then they had to redo it. At one point, I got in the elevator with the lead monk and he had a clipboard with a picture of the woman. I couldn’t help myself. I said, “I see you have a picture of your friend.” He started laughing and then he said, “It’s not my friend; it’s my teacher.”Vincent Avalos
Staff Member since 1990
Jack Bogart AppointedJohnson “Jack” Bogart (at left, with Mayor Willie Brown in 2003) is appointed to the Asian Art Commission; from 1996 he serves as chairman of the Asian Art Commission and Museum Foundation boards, leading the fundraising efforts to move to Civic Center.
Alice Lowe, A Royal Baseball FanWe used to have a lot of celebrities attend events. My favorite was the emperor and empress of Japan. We had a state dinner downstairs and the emperor was very formal. But we had found out that he was a baseball fan and that he knew all the celebrities in the baseball world. There was a point in the program when Willie Mays, one of the Giants, presented the emperor with a baseball with all the players’ signatures on it. The emperor was so excited. He held it up in the air and twisted it around so everyone could see it. It reminded me of a 12-year-old kid. I got a big kick out of it because it was so different from his usual formal manner.Alice Lowe
Volunteer since 1965
A Royal Japanese VisitThe Emperor and Empress of Japan are welcomed by Mayor Frank Jordan at the Asian Art Museum. Also in attendance, at the emperor’s request, are baseball legends Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio, who offer a signed baseball to the royal couple.
First Terracotta Warriors ExhibitionThe Asian exhibits the First Emperor of China’s terracotta warriors for the first time in Tomb Treasures from China: The Buried Art of Ancient Xi’an. Here, museum registrars and preparators install a terracotta horse.
Museum Bond Passes
San Francisco voters overwhelmingly endorse plans to revitalize the city's old Civic Center library into the new Asian Art Museum, authorizing a $41.7 million bond measure for the adaptive reuse of the structure.
“As mayor, I proposed locating the museum in Civic Center as a testimony of San Francisco’s lasting connection to the rich artistic heritage of Asia.” —Dianne Feinstein
Vincent Avalos, The Visitor Who Surprised EveryoneWhen we had our first show of Mongolian art, the person who was in charge of planning our events, Aislinn Scofield, was great at getting esoteric performers. Not much was known about harmonic throat singers at the time, and she brought a group to the museum to perform. After they finished singing, they asked the audience to try it out. First, some kids came and tried to do the throat singing, and then this blind man came up to the mic and started making these incredible noises, like he had been doing it his whole life. His name was Paul Pena, and they later made a movie about him called “Genghis Blues.” He had gone into severe depression after his wife died and learned throat singing just by listening to it on short-wave radio. It was an amazing moment because the singers were shocked that someone from America knew their songs. It was exciting to be there when these artists met, and to see this documentary about him later on.Vincent Avalos
Staff Member since 1990
A Gift from Chong-Moon LeeAsian Art Commissioner and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Chong-Moon Lee gives a $15 million leadership gift to the capital campaign for the new Asian. In 1996, the museum is renamed in his honor as the Asian Art Museum – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture. Here, new museum director Emily Sano (a scholar of Japanese Buddhist art) and Lee unveil a sculpture commemorating his gift.
Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis KhanThe museum organizes and presents the largest and most comprehensive collection of Mongolian art ever viewed in the U.S., Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis Khan. Part of the agreement with the lending institutions involves museum staff training colleagues in Mongolia on conservation methods; pictured here from left is exhibition project director Hal Fischer, conservator Linda Scheifler-Marks, conservation intern Irit Lev, and curator Patricia Berger arriving in Ulaanbaatar in 1993.
Vincent Avalos, My Night with the Priests of the Cosmic BuddhaI’ve had to travel to different countries to bring artwork to the museum, and I feel really lucky that I’ve gotten to meet people and go places I’ve never been before. One of the great things was to go to Nara, Japan. They have a temple there for the Cosmic Buddha, the largest bronze Buddha in the world. We got to have tea with the priests who were in charge of taking care of the temple, and it was the best matcha tea I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know if it was the right setting, or if the priests really knew what they were doing. Afterwards we went out to dinner with them. I’m allergic to sulfites, so I can’t have beer or wine. Everyone was drinking beer, and I had the gall to ask if there was anything else. They brought me whiskey. The priests didn’t speak English, but they were so excited that we were drinking whiskey together. That was a highlight — drinking whiskey with the priests of the Cosmic Buddha.Vincent Avalos
Staff Member since 1990
Splendors of Imperial ChinaSplendors of Imperial China: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is a monumental exhibition of nearly 350 treasures spanning four thousand years, “each a textbook classic of its kind.” — Holland Cotter, New York Times, March 22, 1996.
Earl Speas, An Unexpected InvitationThe Asian Art Museum received a donation of 80 Chao Shao-An paintings in the late 1990s. Terese Bartholomew (a curator at the time) invited me and Lampo Leong to put on museum handling gloves and examine the works in the basement of the Golden Gate Park location. The spirit and energy of these Lingnan paintings was exciting. I now visit the gallery that features a few of his works each time I visit the Asian.Earl Speas
Educator since 1975
Kalpana Desai, The Beginning of SACHIThe Asian Art Museum launched an exhibition celebrating India's 50th anniversary of independence, bringing focus to the arts of India. A splendid bronze Shiva Nataraj on loan graced the entrance to the exhibition. Who would have imagined such an event would spark the founding of an arts and culture organization? It did. It marked the birth of SACHI, Society for Art & Cultural Heritage of India! Shiva Nataraj remained beyond SACHI scope, but how remarkable that the Asian inspired SACHI.Kalpana Desai
Volunteer since 1994
Deb Clearwaters, A Cosmic Pep TalkI arrived early for my interview to work at the museum and was nervous and anxious. Eventually, I took comfort looking at the Japanese tea house gate, as I had just come from the funeral of my professor who got me interested in Japanese art. I looked down and noticed mud from his graveside on my shoe — suddenly, his voice filled my head with a pep talk. I got the job, and still love it.Deb Clearwaters
Staff Member since 1998
Forrest McGill, Envisioning the New MuseumYears before we moved, I was able to come into our current building when it was still in a derelict state — it had been the library but was empty and abandoned-seeming for some years. Getting to hear the designers paint a word picture of what the new museum would look like, then seeing it as a construction site and trying to anticipate what it might be like, was enormously exciting.Forrest McGill
Staff Member since 1999
At Home and AbroadThe museum mounts the first major exhibition of contemporary Filipino Art in the United States and one of the first large-scale special exhibitions on contemporary art at the Asian, At Home and Abroad: 20 Contemporary Filipino Artists.
Vincent Avalos, A Performance Goes to the DogsWe had a performance artist from China, Zhang Huan, come to the museum. At first he wanted to bring live animals into the museum — roosters and cows, all these big crazy things. Of course we had to say no to a lot of his suggestions. The performance ended up being a few of us marching him into the museum, carrying him on a fallen tree while he laid on it. He was naked and painted in a concoction he had made out of dog food. About a dozen or so museum employees had brought in their dogs. We put him in the middle of the court and people had their dogs start licking the food off of him. Some dogs started fighting at one point; a big Akita was there and this little Chihuahua was nipping at him, and then the Akita bit the artist. Well, the artist decided to end the performance at that moment. He stood up, took a bow and left the room.Vincent Avalos
Staff Member since 1990
Inside Out: New Chinese ArtInside Out: Contemporary Chinese Art, the first large-scale exhibition of contemporary Chinese Art from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the West, features large scale installations and performance art alongside traditional mediums. The show is mounted in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Coral Reiff, Reminiscing with SoldiersAs a Docent, I gave a Tour of the S.E. Asian galleries to a group of American soldiers who served in the U.S. military during the war in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. I was an active Anti-War activist during this period during my University years. They spoke sincerely about the lack of opportunity to experience the culture, and objects within the countries they were fighting in. We had a very special time together. We thanked each other for our efforts.Coral Reiff
Volunteer since 1996
Empire of the SultansThe Asian Art Museum closes its doors in Golden Gate Park on October 7, after a week of closing activities and two special exhibitions: Zen: Painting and Calligraphy, 1600–1900 and Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Khalili Collection
Sharon Steckline, Moving to Civic CenterI was one of the last staff left in our old building in Golden Gate Park. It was my job to make sure all the artwork was safely moved to the Civic Center building. We had 87 truck trips and all the objects arrived safely. Probably my most challenging experience at the Asian Art Museum.Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
Museum Architecture ToursA training program for architecture guides is developed by volunteers Silvia Stress, Emily Huang, Florence Hitchcock, Liz Blumberg, and Ann Roughton, in preparation for giving tours of the new Asian in its historic building.
The Heart of the
City and Beyond
In its new Civic Center home, the museum continues to change, in order to reach broader audiences by increasing focus on the visitor experience.
Carolyn Fitz, Meeting A New Best FriendWhile standing in front of a large ink landscape painting in the galleries, I noticed a person to my left, also taking time to study the painting. I turned and said to the woman, "looks like we are enjoying this painting." As we continued chatting, we realized we shared a mutual passion for ink painting. Afterward, we took a break to have tea at the cafe, exchanged phone numbers and became best friends!Carolyn Fitz
Fan since 1990
Kathleen Henschel, A Dedication for PeterIn 1987, Deputy Mayor Peter Henschel, my late husband, had the bright idea to transform the “old Main” into the “new Asian”. Though he didn’t live to see it, when the new Asian was dedicated in March, 2003, many remembered Peter’s idea, and we knew he was there, celebrating with us. He would have loved the Peterson Garden, where the Shanghai Scholar’s Rock is dedicated, “In Celebration of the Life of Peter Henschel from his Family and Friends.”Kathleen Henschel
Sponsor since 1973
Walnut Creek, CA
Gae AulentiItalian Architect Gae Aulenti, widely recognized as a designer who specializes in the adaptive conversion of historic structures into museum spaces, had been chosen from a field of fourteen to adapt the old Civic Center library into the Asian Art Museum. Project architects Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK), LDA Architects, and Robert Wong Architect work with Aulenti to renovate the exteriors, great hall, grand staircase, and loggia, and to add a new floor and two fifty-foot-tall sky-lit atriums, bringing natural light into the once-dark building. An upgraded conservation lab in the basement ensures the long-term preservation of the collection and enables contributions to research about Asian art.
Geri Ferrer-Chan, Cementing Her Place at the MuseumDuring a private tour of the new Asian Art museum construction before it was even completed I threw a ring from my finger into a place I knew would be cemented over! I wanted to be a part of the museum forever! That's how much I love the Asian Art museum!! For all the exciting exhibits, beautiful parties, great friends, truly happy memories it has added to my life.Gerri Ferrer-Chan
Member since 2003
The Asian Art Museum Opens in Civic Center
On March 20 the Asian Art Museum opens at its new location in the Civic Center. The opening occurs just one day after the U.S. invades Iraq. The new building allows more of the collection to be seen, with galleries devoted to each of seven geographic areas—South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, the Himalayas, China, Korea, and Japan—arranged around three themes: the spread of Buddhism, trade and exchange of goods and ideas, and local beliefs and practices.
Kenneth Baker on the Asian Art Museum“There may be no better place in North America to reach for an overview of the arts of the East than the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Not only is its presentation panoramic, but it respects the fact that the field itself remains open to redefinition.” — Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, March 16, 2003.
Coral Reiff, An Opening BlessingFirst day the Museum was open in the Civic Center, I was virtually one of the first Docents entering. I dashed through just to get a quick visual hit, until I got to the extraordinary Himalayan gallery. There was the Curator Terese Bartholomew with a Tibetan Buddhist Monk who was blessing the space! It was an extraordinary experience, to say the least.Coral Reiff
Volunteer since 1996
San Francisco, CA
First Special Exhibitions in New BuildingGoryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment, paired with Leaning Forward, Looking Back: Eight Contemporary Artists of Korea are the first special exhibitions in the new museum building.
Kathleen Braunstein, A Childhood CoincidenceI gave an Architecture Tour of the museum's new Civic Center location when it opened in Spring, 2003. It was only then that I realized that the museum's Education Classrooms off the South Court are in the building's same location as the old library's Children's Room, where I'd spent many wonderful hours of my childhood exploring books and reading.Kathleen Braunstein
Member since 1985
Robynn Takayama, A Bell Ringing TraditionAs a Japanese American, the New Year is a big holiday for me. My family makes traditional food that bring about different forms of good luck and we say that how you are on New Year’s day dictates the rest of the year so clean your house and pay your bills. But I didn't know about the New Year's Eve tradition of bell ringing to leave behind unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds, and ill luck of the previous year. While I didn't ring the bell, it was a beautiful way to close out 2003 and look ahead.Robynn Takayama
Fan since 2003
Tim Sullivan, Avoiding an International IncidentThe South Korean President was visiting the museum, so we had his security mixing with ours, as well as the United States Secret Service. Just prior to him entering the Korean galleries, a reporter was discovered without the necessary credentials, and all the security guards were getting riled up. It seemed like there was going to be an international incident until a Korean-speaking staff member was able to step in and translate to quiet things down. Meanwhile, a security dog got nervous because of all the ruckus and pooped. Someone cleaned it up at the last minute, and the President’s visit went smoothly.Tim Sullivan
Staff Member since 2002
Allison Wyckoff, The Museum’s SpiritIn 2003, (as part of the San Francisco World Music Festival) we had a shaman from Tuva here to consecrate a new ceremonial vest she had made. During the program, a throat singer from Tuva was supposed to perform for 20 minutes, and then the shaman would have 40 minutes for her ceremony. But the singer gets up and starts singing and 20 minutes pass and he doesn’t stop. He keeps on going for 35 or 40 minutes before he finally stops, and then she does her ceremony. Afterward, we were talking with the two of them through an interpreter about the experience. The throat singer says, “Well, she wouldn’t let me stop singing.” We ask, “Who?” And he says, “The spirit wouldn’t let me stop.” The shaman is nodding along in agreement and then explains, “An angry female spirit lives in this building. Her presence is very strong, and she would not let him stop singing.” That’s a favorite memory for me because it brings the building to life. It’s a reminder of how much history there is not just in this building, but also in this neighborhood in general.Allison Wyckoff
Staff Member since 2002
Sharon Steckline, Visitors from a Great HeightShortly after the Asian re-opened in the Civic Center, we were honored with a visit from Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to summit Mt. Everest in 1953. I could hardly contain my excitement. He was accompanied by his wife, Lady June Hillary, and by Junko Tabei, who was the first woman to climb Everest in 1975. He was kind enough to pose for a photo with the staff.Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
Erik Cline, A Serendipitous ProtestI remember marching with tens of thousands of protesters on the eve of the 2003 Iraqi invasion, crossing neighborhoods from the Bay Bridge all the way to Van Ness. As the crowd entered Civic Center, I saw the newly opened Asian and thought "I should look into applying for a job there." I eventually nailed a job, but I hear the Iraq thing didn't go as well. Pro Tip: shutting down a city through civil disobedience is a great way to sight see and mingle.Erik Cline
Staff Member since 2003
Sharon Steckline, A Fragrant ExhibitionIn 2004, we had an exhibition of art by Montien Boonma, a Thai artist who had passed away. When the people from his studio who were producing his work first arrived, they said they needed a bunch of herbs for one installation. So we went to the Indian markets in the Mission to buy turmeric, cinnamon and a bunch of other spices and herbs — and they mixed them right into the paint. Then they invited us to help paint the mural. When you are actually participating, you feel much more connected to the whole experience. They gave us a little bit of guidance, but they let us know that we could do whatever we wanted. We were like, “We don’t know … This looks kind of funky,” but in the end, the mural looked great. There was a very strong herbal aroma to the exhibition, and it took about a year before it fully went away.Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
Geisha: Beyond the Painted SmileThe special exhibition Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile features a performance by a contemporary geisha, who toured the exhibition before her dance performance. A local artist responds to the museum’s marketing of the exhibition, critiquing what he viewed as an orientalist view of the mystique of geisha.
Carolyn Fitz, A Sunday Well SpentOne Sunday, I arrived right when the museum opened (10AM) and chatted with a security guard. I spent the entire day at the museum (and cafe) — enjoyed discovering the Lingnan alcove and Shao Chao-An's fabulous paintings. When I left at 4PM, the same guard looked at me with surprise and said, "You're still here? Nobody stays that long!" We had a good laugh to end the day.Carolyn Fitz
Fan since 1990
Sui JianguoThe first of three solo shows by up-and-coming Chinese artists, Sui Jianguo, The Sleep of Reason, is curated by consulting curator of contemporary art Jeff Kelley, an outcome of the 1998 invitation by Director Emily Sano to consider strategy and programming for contemporary art at the Asian. Subsequent projects feature the work of Liu Xiaogdong, The Three Gorges Project in 2006, and Zhan Wang, On Gold Mountain in 2008.
Gina and David Woo, One Sunny DayAfter knowing each other professionally and some mishaps with timing, we finally had our first date at the Asian Art Museum one sunny fall day. About a decade and three kids later, we still fondly remember making small talk and holding hands while perusing Korean celadon pottery. We always point out the museum to our children when we drive into the city as the place where it all began!Gina and David Woo
Fan since 2004
Hermine Marshall, Inspired by CalligraphyMy favorite memory is of Chinese Brush painter and calligrapher, Aiqin Zhou, doing calligraphy over her paintings on the floor with a broom-size brush in the North Court during the 40th Anniversary Celebration.Hermine Marshall
Volunteer since 2009
Lenore Chinn, Artists Drawing ClubI was thrilled to see the work of a local woman artist, Jung Ran Bae, included in the Asian Art Museum's Artists Drawing Club. Samsung Hall was transformed in "Breathe," a multi-sensory installation on August 28, 2014. And Ran's ceramic pieces, “TEAter-Totter” and “Human Betweens” in the 2nd floor galleries and on view for a longer period, were a wonderful complement. While I enjoy seeing the Museum's traditional artifacts, it is refreshing to view new work, especially by locals and women.Lenore Chinn
Artist since 1973
Henny Tanudjaja, Daughters and NiecesI've brought my daughters to AAM a lot. To see special exhibits, to attend weekend and evening programs. They made crafts. They were always excited to eat the cafe. I cherish those moments. They're both college students. When they do go to the museum, sometimes they would look for their favorite object, "Where is the monkey painting?!" Now I bring my young nieces. They too have their favorite pieces.Henny Tanudjaja
Volunteer since 2004
San Francisco, CA
Jennifer Yin, Thursday NightsI've invited a lot of friends to come to our Thursday night programs and special parties over the years. I have lots of fond memories of my friends at these various events. It always meant so much to me to see them, and almost made the museum seem like a community gathering space. I can look back on these 11 years at the museum and recall the different faces who came out. One even became a member!Jennifer Yinn
Staff Member since 2004
Leanne Koh, AAFF Opening NightI had to wait to turn 21 in order to attend the Center for Asian American Film Festival Opening Night Gala. It was my first time there, best place for the gala!Leanne Koh
Fan since 2005
Mark Fenn, Training Monks in BhutanAs a condition for the loans for our 2009 Bhutan exhibit, the Bhutanese government required that people in their country get training in aspects of museum sciences. So, in about 2007, I went to Bhutan to train monks in the conservation of religious sculptures. There were about seven monks from various monasteries, plus staff members from the National Museum and the Ministry of Culture. It took three one-month visits to work on all the objects; we treated 77 objects, about 50 of which ended up in the exhibition — mostly they needed cleaning. The monks learned how to do the cleaning and documentation, and I got a lot more work done than I could have done by myself. So it was a really great project.Mark Fenn
Staff Member since 1998
Ami Tseng, A Memorable Day with BullseyeBack in May 2008, we switched to having free general admission days on the first Sunday of the month instead of on the first Tuesday of the month. To support that changeover, Target, who sponsors the free day, was very generous and helped us by planning activities throughout the day and provided extra marketing support. Target has as their mascot a dog called Bullseye, and there is actually a live Bullseye (rumor has it there’s more than one too). They said that since it was a really special occasion, they were able to book him; this little dog is like a rock star, very hard to get. That was one of the highlights of the day for everyone — they brought the dog into South Court and when the trainer gave him a signal he would jump on the podium, sit still and smile and people could take photos with him. He was incredibly well trained. We had over 8,000 people visit the museum that day. It was so lively and the dog brightened everyone’s day. It was a wonderful example of a company getting involved in the community, lending its support and resources to make a difference.Ami Tseng
Staff Member since 2002
Barbara Levinson, A Visit from the YorksI'm a docent here at the AAM and one night I was touring the Tibet exhibition. I noticed a couple showing interest in one of the paintings, so I asked if I could tell them a little more about the art. I noticed the gentleman had a 49ers button in his label so I innocently asked if he was a fan. His response was that he owned the 49ers!! Of course it was Denise and John York.Barbara Levinson
Volunteer since 1991
Leanne Koh, MATCHA MemoriesI loved going to the "MATCHA: Japanese Tattoo" event. So cool to see art on the human body, especially when they were doing it there in person, on the person.Leanne Koh
Fan since 2005
Paul Lifton, A Kyogen ProductionI attended a lecture/demonstration by Miyake Tokuro, Izumi Junko, and Junko's daughter of the Izumi School of kyogen performers (Soke branch), and thought I would invite Miyake-san to work with my students on a production of kyogen in English at the university in North Dakota where I taught in the theatre dept. I introduced myself to her after the demo, exchanged contact info, and eventually managed to make the project a reality in 2012. Lasting friendship w/Miyake-san resulted.Paul Lifton
Member since 2001
Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, KabulAfghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, here promoted in Dari script in an effort to reach the local Afghan community, upends preconceptions about this war-torn part of the world, showing Afghanistan’s diverse and ancient cultural history.
First Social Media PostingIn its first social media posting, the museum tweets “hello, world!” Today, the museum has more than 430,000 followers on its various social media feeds.
Jax Xu Appointed DirectorChinese art scholar Jay Xu is appointed director of the museum. Welcoming visitors on the first Target First Free Sunday was Xu's inaugural public event as the incoming director. To serve more visitors the museum switched its monthly free admission day from Tuesday to Sunday.
Sharon Steckline, Spending Time with MonksFor Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, because the artworks were ritual objects actually used in a temple, two monks from Bhutan came to protect the objects and pray over them. There was a shrine set up as part of the exhibition, and the monks would pray there twice a day. Members of the public could join them, and they loved participating; it was such a great atmosphere. These monks normally lived in a monastery and ate simple food every day, but over time we noticed their diet start to change. By the end, they were going to baseball games and eating hotdogs and sweets. I was so worried they would be ruined for life — how could they go back to life at the monastery? But it was so great to get to know them.Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
Lords of the SamuraiLords of the Samurai: Legacy of a Daimyo Family brings the Hosokawa family collection of Japanese art to the United States for the first time.
Nancy J., Bell Ringing CeremonyI have only been to the New Year Japanese bell ringing for about 5 years, but now I wouldn't miss it. Sharing memories from the year with friends at the Asian and looking forward to a new year filled with possibilities.Nancy J.
Member since 2008
Mill Valley, CA
Cara Storm, A Special Family MomentI frequent San Francisco's bounty of wonderful museums and often take guests from out of town. One of my fondest museum outing memories was bringing my father, who was visiting from the East Coast, to one of your tea ceremonies. It was a beautiful, serene and bonding moment shared during an otherwise hectic trip, and one that my father and I both still remember with full hearts. Thank you, Asian Art Museum!Cara Storm
Fan since 1997
San Francisco, CA
Henny Tanudjaja, A Buddhist Field TripI have brought my Buddhist teachers to the Himalayan gallery and Bhutan exhibits. I remember how moved they were when they looked at the objects which to them were so much more than museum pieces. One of the teachers even touched his forehead on the ledge of the case as an homage. The guard quickly came. Nonetheless, those were special memories for me.Henny Tanudjaja
Volunteer since 2004
San Francisco, CA
Sharon Steckline, A Giant CelebrationI am a huge Giants fan and was fortunate enough to attend all three Giants rallies from the safety of the Asian Art Museum. Our photographer took a photo from the roof in 2010 which he shared with me. I watched the parade from a window overlooking McAllister St.Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
ShanghaiThe Shanghai exhibition, opening in conjunction with the World Expo in Shanghai, is a part of a San Francisco city-wide Shanghai Celebration.
Vishnu & Jenessa, First DateVishnu and I had our first date at the museum for the Maharaja exhibit. In 2014, we came back to the museum with our family on our wedding day. We've been members ever since!Vishnu Chapalamadugu
Member since 2014
Bali: Art, Ritual, PerformanceBali: Art, Ritual, Performance is the first major exhibition of Balinese art in the world; a key element of the exhibition is live ritual offerings and performances, such as the dance seen here.
Global Financial CrisisAfter the global financial crisis puts the museum’s debt financing in jeopardy, the City guarantees the museum’s loan and puts the institution on stable footing again. The museum then launches its new vision, with a promise to “awaken the past and inspire the next,” along with a daring new logo signifying “for all”. The vision, as set forth by director Jay Xu, is to spark connections across all cultures and through time, igniting curiosity, conversation, and creativity.
MaharajaFor the Maharaja exhibition about India’s royal past, local animation artist Sanjay Patel (creator of Pixar short Sanjay’s Super Team, 2015) is invited to make new work and expand on his existing art interpreting Hindu deities in his colorful, pop style. His installation, featuring works from the museum’s Indian collections, is called Deities, Demons, and Dudes with ‘Staches: Indian Avatars by Sanjay Patel. Asian Art Museum.
Phantoms of AsiaPhantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past is the first major pan-Asian contemporary art exhibition mounted by the Asian. The show includes sixty contemporary works by thirty-one artists from fifteen nations exhibited alongside eighty artworks from the museum's collection. A highlight is Breathing Flower by Choi Jeong Hwa installed in Civic Center Plaza.
Dori Sera Bailey, A Chinese New Year WarriorLike other museum spouses, my husband, Jack, actively supports my work. But he still surprised me, readily agreeing to ride the museum's float in the 2013 Chinese New Year Parade . . . dressed as a Terracotta Warrior. The stiff canvas tunic, pants, boots and headpiece weighed 15 pounds. And then there was the mud-colored makeup. He and his small band of fellow warriors were a sight to behold. The Terracotta Warriors exhibition went on to break museum attendance records. Thanks, hon!Dori Sera Bailey
Staff Member since 2011
Laila Skelly, Bell Ringing CeremonyOn a whim, I decided to take a visiting friend to the museum for the New Year's bell ringing ceremony. It ended up being such a special event for both of us, and now I return every year to participate in the ringing. It's a beautiful way to meet with my fellow community members, to remember the year, and symbolically close it out. For me, that first visit was the start of one of my most favorite New Year's traditions. Thank you, AAM, for hosting such a meaningful gathering.Laila Skelly
Fan since 2005
Lt. Nabil Tahan, US NavyI served in the United States Navy as an Asian American of Bangladeshi descent. I am proud to serve my country of the United States, and to further fight prejudice and social injustice in the country I call home.Nabil Tahan
Fan since 2014
Sharon Steckline, A Morning TreatI come to work at the Asian very early in the morning and it made my whole day when I saw this very artistic (temporary) tag on the side of our building on McAllister St. So creative!Sharon Steckline
Staff Member since 1991
The Lundquists, Museum BuddiesBecause the Javanese puppets were at her eye level, my daughter considered them her special museum buddies, and she would beeline to see them as soon as she could walk and pointed and babbled at them. She was no more than 1 1/2 years old in this picture. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time standing there babbling with her.Lundquist Family
Member since 2010
Zach Endoso, Inspired by BululWhen I was 18 and a freshman in college, I spent a whole day at the museum by myself. When I saw the humble Bulul sitting solemnly in his case, I was filled with inquiry on the art of my father's ancestors, the art of the Philippines. I have since been on an evermore impassioned journey to find out more about my lifeline, through the Bulul and through Filipino art. That day gave me a curiosity, longing, and hope that I will carry, until the day that I hand it down to my children.Zach Endoso
Artist since 1993
Korea Culture Day
The museum celebrates its tenth anniversary in the Civic Center, and ends the year with the exhibition In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art during the Joseon Dynasty, recalling the first special exhibition of Korean art ten years prior. Here students and professors from the Korea National University of Arts’ School of Korean Traditional Arts perform as part of the Korea Foundation Korea Culture Day.
The Cyrus CylinderThe museum is host to the Cyrus Cylinder from ancient Babylon on its first tour to the U.S. The twenty-six hundred-year-old, inscribed stone cylinder is thought to be one of the world’s first declarations of human rights.
#LostWarriorThe playful #LostWarrior game asks the public to help the museum find a lost terracotta warrior (played by actor Calvin Kai Ku) by posting sightings to social media, in conjunction with the exhibition China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy. The Lost Warrior is eventually reunited with the exhibition; the campaign wins an International Design Communication award.
Ami Tseng, Finding a Lost WarriorI loved the Lost Warrior campaign; it was probably the most creative campaign I’ve worked on at the museum. I came up with the idea when I was brushing my teeth one night; we had been trying to come up with an interesting way to promote the terracotta warrior exhibitions and I had the idea of having one “warrior” get separated from the group while he was traveling from China to the Bay Area. We could then ask the public to help track him down in time for the exhibition. I didn’t realize at the time how resource-intensive the project would be, but our small but talented marketing and PR team managed to pull it off. Through some luck we managed to find an actor who was also a trained acrobat and clown to play the role of the lost warrior. We wanted someone who could, through visual gestures and facial expressions, convey the story, because since he’s supposed to be terracotta warrior it’s a non-speaking role. Our media sponsors helped us get the story out, and we worked with 30 organizations throughout the Bay Area on his “appearances” as he slowly made his way from San Jose to SF. Lots of people participated in the search, and when the warrior finally made it back to the museum — just in time for the show’s press preview — people enjoyed seeing him at the museum, and he ended up being a fun ambassador for the exhibition. It was a fun campaign which allowed us to bring the museum's brand to life in a different way.Ami Tseng
Staff Member since 2004
SFUSD Arts FestivalParents view their child's artwork in the San Francisco Unified Schools District Arts Festival, hosted at the Asian starting in 2013. Now in its thirtieth year as we celebrate our fiftieth, the annual showcase of student creativity features displays of student art and performances.
Courtney Helion, My First InstallationAfter moving from Baltimore I still couldn’t believe that I was at the museum working on In Grand Style, a high profile exhibition. The week before I had walked through the Ellison show In the Moment and the permanent collection with my dad — having set my first step in San Francisco the day before — and felt a sense of homecoming. It was lovely and restorative. Katie Holbrow, the former head of conservation took this photo of me. I sent to my people back on the east coast to show them I was ok, and going to be ok. Almost three years later I remember that day vividly. It was a personal turning point, art, purpose and passion can heal.Courtney Helion
Staff Member since 2013
Anita De Lucio, Grit & GlamourMy worlds collided and exploded in shimmering delight at the Grit & Glamour Opening Party for the "Gorgeous" exhibition! I am a dancer and AAM employee. One day, I was asked "Do you know any vogue dancers that could perform for the Gorgeous Exhibit Opening Party?" BOI do I! I called my Voguer friends and I designed a dress inspired by a piece in the exhibit: “Untitled” (Golden) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. That night I got to share with the AAM community the Joyful Glamour that is VOGUE!Anita De Lucio
Staff Member since 2006
Cathy Moreland, A West Asian EducationI so enjoyed the Roads of Arabia exhibition. West Asia is a new term for me. This exhibit showed items that changed the way people view timelines, such as when the horse was first domesticated. I could have taken the three Anthropomorphic steles home with me! Also, that these artifacts have been recently excavated. I liked that the museum stretched and took a risk with this exhibit. Keep stretching.Cathy Moreland
Member since 2010
Cindy Shih, A Contemporary AwakeningI came for Jung Ran's event in August of 2014. I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't been to the Asian Art Museum prior, despite having lived in SF for over a decade. The reason being that I've always felt that it would be a bunch of old, antiquated and irrelevant artifacts. I was surprised to see so many contemporary artists shown, particularly those working and living in our community. Her show surpassed my expectations in its elegance, caliber, and attendance. I have been back many times since.Cindy Shih
Artist since 2010
San Francisco, CA
The Lundquists, Dance, Dance, DanceDuring the Floating World exhibition, my then-3 year old would watch the geisha video, mesmerized, and then mimic the dancer's every move at home, including changing her outfits behind a "tree." The fan art project was brilliant too. We would visit the museum every week to watch the video and to make fans. She was so inspired by the artistry and she delighted other visitors because often time, she would just start dancing.Lundquist Family
Member since 2010
Gorgeous features seventy-two unconventionally stunning artworks drawn from the collections of the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, including the eighteenth-century Buddhist deity Simhavaktra Dakini, pictured here in front of a curtain of gold beads by Felix Gonzales-Torres. The exhibition, spanning more than twenty-two hundred years and dozens of cultures, explores the fine line between attraction and repulsion.
Giselle Huybrecht, A Museum HoneymoonIn October 2009, I wanted to see the Burma exhibit. My boyfriend then promised me we would go when he came to see me that month. Unfortunately, we got really busy, his trip to SF was fairly quick, and we never had a chance to visit the museum. Fast forward 2015, my husband booked our wedding at SF city hall. He asked me what I wanted to do after. I said, well you promised to take me to the Asian Museum but never did. So I'd like to go there! So after our wedding, we had lunch thereGiselle Huybrecht
Fan since 2009
Jonathan Lee, Quiet Time with a BuddhaWhen you visit a museum, you don’t realize what it takes to put on a show. You don’t think about all the different roles, from security to preparation to conservation. At one of the first staff meetings I went to, it was my first time getting a sense of, “Wow, a lot of people are involved in preparing for an exhibition. It’s not just taking out an oil cloth and polishing something.” Another thing that stands out in my mind from that first meeting: Someone said, “One of the great things about our job is that whenever you are feeling down you can go downstairs and talk to a Buddha.” It’s great that we have that opportunity for quiet contemplation at any time.Jonathan Lee
Staff Member since 2015
Liz Karosick, A Family VisitSharing the Asian Art Museum with my sister and mom was a proud moment for me as a new staff member at the museum. Museums were a fundamental part of our development and they created some of our happiest memories growing up. I know my late grandparents would have been so proud and my little nephews already see museums as an exciting way to learn and be with family. The Asian Art Museum will hold a special place for my family for generations to come.Liz Karosick
Staff Member since 2015
Walnut Creek, CA
First LookThe museum rounds out a season of contemporary art with First Look: Collecting Contemporary at the Asian, the first large-scale exhibition of contemporary highlights from the museum’s collection assembled over the past fifteen years.