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Leading Through Challenges and Transformation, Dr. Jay Xu, Asian Art Museum Director, Announces 2025 Succession

CHINESE LANGUAGE - press release

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April 17, 2023 — Dr. Jay Xu, the Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture, announced today the commencement of succession planning to culminate in 2025. 

Having joined the museum in 2008, Dr. Xu has led the museum through existential challenges, including the 2008 financial crisis and the ongoing pandemic, while achieving unprecedented growth and overseeing the museum’s transformation into a globally renowned destination for Asian and Asian American art. 

“With a transformed museum; a flourishing endowment and robust circle of local, national, and international donors; an original program of major historical and contemporary art exhibitions to come; expanding audiences excited about our innovative museum experience; and outstanding staff working at every level of the organization, now is the right time for me to begin planning for the Asian Art Museum’s next generation of leadership,” says Dr. Xu.  

He continues, “During my time as a leader here, we have seen how the role of museums continues to evolve in ever more relevant ways — from repositories of history to places we gather to rediscover the past, understand the present, and imagine the future. As we move in this direction together, it has been my distinct and ongoing honor to help tell a broader, richer, and more inclusive story not only of Asia, but also of the diverse America we live in — to ensure the Asian Art Museum truly is for all.” 

The Asian Art Commission and the Asian Art Museum Foundation, the dual governing boards of the museum, will undertake a methodical process of succession, as they prepare to begin an international search for the next director. 

Dr. Xu is the first Chinese American to serve as director at a major U.S. art museum, and the first Asian American museum director elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In December 2022, he was appointed to the United States Congressional Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture, a volunteer position in which he will serve as he continues in his role of museum director. 

Dr. Xu came to the Asian Art Museum with a mission to reimagine and diversify what a museum of Asian art in America could offer. In 2017, he spearheaded a $100 million capital campaign to fund the museum’s transformation, including the construction of the Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Exhibition Pavilion and the refurbishment of the museum’s collections galleries and education facilities. This transformation doubled the square footage for special exhibitions and created dedicated spaces for a much-admired, groundbreaking Asian and Asian American contemporary art program, a first for the museum and a catalyst for deepened engagement with the local arts community. 

Furthermore, under Dr. Xu’s guidance, the museum has forged critical international partnerships to grow its trademark strength in showcasing traditional Asian art by bringing the most significant exhibitions from Asia to American audiences. This diverse array of more than 100 exhibitions, associated programs, and award-winning publications have helped reshape the narrative of Asian history and culture outside of Asia. 

Fred M. Levin, chair of the Asian Art Commission and Asian Art Museum Foundation, said: “Jay’s vision, foresight, and passion — for art, for audiences, for unforgettable experiences — has been key to the growth and long-term viability of this jewel in the cultural crown of San Francisco. He will be greatly missed when the time comes, but I look forward to working closely with him to fill the very big shoes he will leave behind.” 

Salle Yoo, vice-chair of the Asian Art Commission and president of the Asian Art Museum Foundation, said: “Under Jay’s leadership, the Asian Art Museum has leapt forward — not only by increasing the physical space where we bring ‘Asian Art to All,’ but by broadening our focus to share more voices and perspectives with our global audience — including being the first museum to present major exhibitions of Asian American artists like Bernice Bing, Carlos Villa, and Chanel Miller. We are truly grateful to Jay for his dedication and look forward to continuing his vision as the museum embarks on its next chapter.”

Akiko Yamazaki, emerita chair of the Asian Art Commission and Asian Art Museum Foundation, said: “When Jay joined us 15 years ago, we outlined a vision for growing the museum into a global destination for experiencing the most significant and meaningful works of Asian art. I can say with confidence and pride that he has brought the Asian Art Museum into a new age and successfully laid the foundations for its future.” 


About Dr. Jay Xu 

Dr. Xu has nearly forty years of international museum experience as a research scholar, curator, and museum director. He previously served as head of the Asian Art department and chairman of the Department of Asian and Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (2003-08); curator of Chinese art at the Seattle Art Museum (1996-2003); research fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1995-96); and assistant to the museum director at the Shanghai Museum (1983-1990). 

Dr. Xu serves in a variety of professional responsibilities in other organizations, including: 

  • Member of the governing board of the Terra Foundation for American Art.
  • Member of the Association of Art Museum Directors.
  • Member of the Advisory Council of the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University.
  • Member of the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Art Museums.
  • Member of the Advisory Board of the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, UC Berkeley.

Dr. Xu also serves in a variety of civic responsibilities, including: 

  • Member of the Commission on the Arts, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Member of the Arts & Culture Advisory Council, America250 Foundation, Washington, DC (convened by the U.S. Congress for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the United States of America).
  • Member of the governing board of the Chinatown Media and Art Collaborative (CMAC), San Francisco (whose mission is to celebrate contemporary creative expressions at the intersection of community, culture, and media and to foster economic recovery and social justice).
  • Member of the Committee of 100 (a national nonpartisan organization composed of American citizens of Chinese descent who have achieved positions of leadership in the United States in a broad range of professions).


About the Asian Art Museum  

Located in the heart of San Francisco, the museum is home to one of the world’s finest collections of Asian and Asian American art, with more than 20,000 awe-inspiring works 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.