SAN FRANCISCO — The Asian Art Museum announced September 22 the election of San Francisco arts and culture philanthropist Fred M. Levin as chair of the Asian Art Commission and Asian Art Museum Foundation, the dual governing boards responsible for the administration of the Asian Art Museum—Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture. Salle Yoo, a corporate lawyer with many years of experience in the technology sector, will join Levin as president of the Foundation and vice-chair of the Commission. Levin succeeds Akiko Yamazaki, while Yoo succeeds Timothy F. Kahn. Yamazaki will become the museum’s chair emerita.
As the museum prepares for a phased reopening — following pandemic closure — starting Oct. 1, Yamazaki steps back from a museum that is poised for success with all audiences. During her six consecutive years as chair, Yamazaki led the museum through a multimillion dollar, multiyear transformation project that substantially grew the museum’s endowment, enhanced board diversity, and saw the completion of San Francisco’s largest new exhibition pavilion and rooftop art terrace as well as the reimagining of the museum’s collection galleries, education spaces, and digital initiatives.
While incoming chair Levin has served as a trustee of the museum since 2003, his relationship with the Asian Art Museum extends to its opening in 1966, when he joined hundreds waiting in line to explore 6,000 years of Asian art and culture. Levin has since been involved with the museum’s most critical operational initiatives, many of which were spearheaded by Yamazaki, including the development of a major strategic and business plan that led to the museum’s $100 million capital campaign and transformation project. In recent years, he served as vice president of the Asian Art Museum Foundation Board (2017–2020). In partnership with his late wife Nancy Livingston, Levin has been honored with numerous awards for supporting countless organizations and artists in the visual and performing arts, contributing to the cultural vitality of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
“As a fourth-generation San Franciscan, Asian art and culture was part of my upbringing. My grandfather had a business importing art objects from China before World War II, and in the 1950s, my father started the San Francisco International Film festival promoting Asian films, so when the Asian Art Museum opened in the 1960s, I couldn’t wait to go,” says Levin. “It’s an honor to help lead a museum that represents the spirit of Asia in the heart of San Francisco — a bridge to understanding how cultures connect, interact, and reflect one another. With Salle as a partner, I look forward to building on my predecessor’s many successes — from enhancing the board’s diversity, to expanding digital experiences across every museum platform, to ensuring the museum remains on its current sound strategic and financial footing for years to come.”
In addition to his work with the Asian Art Museum, Levin currently serves on the Board of Governors of the San Francisco Symphony, the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Film Society, and the Advisory Board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Family members Ben and Jess Shenson were early role models for Levin’s own civic-minded mission. Inspired by this legacy, Levin currently leads the Shenson Foundation to identify and present young, talented artists who in turn will inspire the next generation of arts audiences.
Yoo joined the museum Foundation board in 2018. She has served most recently as a member of the Audit Committee, the Committee on Trustees, and the Compensation Committee. Her involvement with the museum started over a decade ago, when she was invited by former trustee Bill Kim to join the museum’s Korean Art and Culture Committee. From there, she and her husband Jeff Gray went on to support the museum as members of the Museum Council and Nexus. Dedicated to the advancement of equity, diversity, and education in American life, Yoo serves as an advisor, investor, and board member to early-stage companies. She is a limited partner of three venture funds led by women. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Scripps College, as a member of the Leaders’ Circle of the Legal Services Corporation, and on the Board of the Council of Korean Americans. Yoo is the former chief legal officer, corporate secretary, and general counsel of Uber Technologies, Inc.
“Fred and Salle share a keen understanding of the impact art can have on our lives, lives we live more than ever in a digital environment,” says Jay Xu, Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. “Their deep commitment to the power and beauty of Asian art, to expanding access to this art, and to expanding the museum’s digital offerings shows what this museum stands for: breaking down barriers between art and audience, and inviting everyone to participate in critical conversations happening across the globe.”
The museum also elected two new trustees, Travis Kiyota and Vasant M. Prabhu, to the Asian Art Museum Foundation and the Asian Art Commission. Between them, Kiyota and Prabhu bring decades of experience in hospitality, finance, community relations, and philanthropy.