Through the power of art, the Asian Art Museum brings the diverse cultures of Asia to life.
May 8, 2020
We want to take a moment to acknowledge that, pre-pandemic, we had expected to unveil the transformed Asian Art Museum to the world this week, launching a new era of art, ideas, and experiences.
This unveiling would have been a vision fulfilled and a celebration of many years and countless hours of incredible work. It is painful to experience the gap between where we thought we would be and the very different place we find ourselves today.
We find ourselves reflecting on this gap frequently, and despite the moments of staggering disbelief that this is our new reality — one filled with sadness, uncertainty, and fear for the longevity of the arts — we also find ourselves filled with awe for everyone we work with, starting with our own museum family. The resilience, the tenacity, and the unbridled enthusiasm and creativity of the museum staff, board, and supporters of all kinds — in the face of an overwhelming situation — are never less than inspiring.
We had planned to celebrate our years-in-the-making transformation with a wonderful gala, saluting all who generously offered their support to the For All campaign. Instead, we are championing a Sustainer Fund that will provide much-needed resources to keep us moving forward.
Today, we would have hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor and hundreds of attendees. Now, we have launched our virtual museum and we just participated in a virtual Community Conversation with Mayor Breed to support Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
We had planned to offer free admission — thanks to Target — for thousands during an opening weekend. In the new virtual museum world, our dynamic, problem-solving staff has found new ways to engage our audiences online with digital programming and educational content that continues to enrich lives with music, food, mindfulness, and, of course, with art.
While our doors remain closed to the public, we are still giving back: we have donated hundreds of N95 masks to those on the frontlines, hundreds of tote bags to help feed those in need, and hundreds of hours as disaster service workers, besides offering the community a rich array of virtual programs.
We have met and surmounted challenges before in our history and we will again. We want to say a special thanks to our board for empowering the staff to think resourcefully about how to confront today’s challenges, to all donors for sustaining the museum during this unprecedented crisis, and to our staff for demonstrating how to remain nimble and innovative in the face of ongoing crisis.
Every individual and organization needs a North Star, particularly in the moment of crisis. We have our North Star — a transformed museum for our community and for the world, and we are confident we will reach it despite the tremendous challenge. We will be steadfast in carrying out our mission, guided by the vision of making Asian art and culture essential to everyone. This is a time of crisis; this is a time for invention.
Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO
Located in the heart of San Francisco, the museum is home to one of the world’s finest collections of Asian art, boasting more than 18,000 awe-inspiring artworks ranging from ancient jades and ceramics to contemporary video installations. Dynamic special exhibitions, cultural celebrations and public programs for all ages provide rich art experiences that unlock the past and spark questions about the future.
To make Asian art and culture essential to everyone.
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco connects art to life. Our mission is to inspire new ways of thinking by connecting diverse communities to historical and contemporary Asian art and culture through our world-class collection, exhibitions and programs.
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco strives to be respectful, engaging, inspirational, nimble and accessible.
The Asian Art Museum was founded more than 50 years ago, when collector Avery Brundage donated nearly 8,000 outstanding Asian artworks to the city of San Francisco. His goal was to create a “bridge of understanding” between the U.S. and Asia. A new wing of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park constructed to house this priceless collection opened in 1966.
After almost four decades in the park, the Asian Art Museum moved to the former Main Library building in the Civic Center, which had been transformed to showcase the expanding collection as well as the groundbreaking exhibitions the museum had become known for. Since then, the museum has solidified its position as not only one of the premier art venues in the Bay Area but also as one of the most important centers for Asian art and culture outside Asia. The collection now comprises more than 18,000 artworks spanning 6,000 years.
In 2017, the museum embarked on a $90 million transformation project to accommodate large special exhibitions and a growing, vibrant contemporary art program. The Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion and the East West Bank Art Terrace, designed by Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY, as well as refreshed collection galleries and public amenities are slated for completion in 2020.
A vibrant hub for discovering the magnificent artistic achievements and intriguing history of the world’s most populous continent, the Asian Art Museum continues to bridge cultures, engage the imagination and encourage new ways of thinking.