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[TIMELINE] Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture Opens (03/21/03)

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  • madchinaman
    Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture Opens Doors AsianWeek Staff Writer http://news.asianweek.com/news/view_article.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2006
      Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture Opens Doors
      AsianWeek Staff Writer

      Forty-four years ago, a Chicago millionaire named Avery Brundage
      decided to donate a part of his Asian art collection to San
      Francisco, if the city agreed to build a new museum to house it. As
      a result, the city of San Francisco passed a bond measure in 1960
      that allotted $2,725,000 to acquire and build a space constructed as
      a wing of the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in Golden Gate Park. But
      as the collection grew, the art needed a new home.

      In 1994, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly supported a bond
      measure to renovate the former Main Library building as the new home
      for the Asian Art Museum. Today, the Asian Art Museum opens its
      doors to a breathtakingly beautiful architectural setting that
      houses thousands of pieces from East Asia, Southeast Asia, South
      Asia and Western Asia in the 180,000 square foot building across
      from San Francisco's City Hall.

      Moving the collection and renovating the former main library were
      not easy tasks. In 1995, the museum began vigorous fundraising to
      complete the project. As a result, Chong-Moon Lee, a successful
      entrepreneur, provided a healthy donation of $15 million dollars for
      the main museum collection and $1 million dollars for the Korean
      collection. The Asian Art Commission established the new site with
      its generous contributor's name, calling the new location the Chong-
      Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture.

      After establishing the funds, the museum commissioned a renown
      Italian architect, Gae Aulenti, to revamp the building, while
      retaining the historic elements and framework of the 1917 structure.
      Aulenti, whose projects include the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, says her
      inspiration required conceptualizing the complexity and density of
      an urban environment and generating architectural forms and spatial
      relationships amidst such settings.

      "We face the challenge of creating an inspirational showplace for an
      unparalleled collection of precious art, while protecting and
      preserving the integrity of an historic design," said Johnson S.
      Bogart, chairman of the Asian Art Commission and Asian Art Museum
      Foundation. "The architectural team we have selected represents the
      finest international experience in both the design and exhibition
      facilities and the rehabilitation of the historic structures."

      Indeed, the old and the new are meshed in the new building. Upon
      entering the building, museum patrons will notice the indoor
      skylight court and a grand staircase that moves the eyes to the
      museum's central space. The interior walls provide views into the
      galleries as elevators take guests up to the second and third
      floors, where all the art pieces are encased in separate, thematic

      The first floor houses 8,500 square feet of special exhibition
      galleries, while the second and third floors house nearly 14,000
      works from the museum collection. Colorful paintings, ancient stone,
      bronze sculpture, intricately carved jade, delicate ceramics,
      embroidered textiles and other fine art pieces that span centuries
      are separated into galleries that showcase the geographic and
      historical relevance of each work.

      "Our goal has been to combine, in the galleries, the greatest beauty
      of design with greatest richness of the ideas in the arrangement of
      artworks," said Forrest McGill, chief curator. "To reconsider which
      artwork to put in the galleries … to plan and prepare all new
      explanatory panels, labels, maps and other didactics in an
      integrated system … the chance to do this for an entire museum in
      one carefully coordinated campaign is something about which museum
      professionals dream."

      The museum will also have special educational programs and a
      resource center that provides background information on the arts and
      culture of Asia. Daily tours, led by docents, and storytelling and
      school programs will be provided for children and adults.

      Said Emily J. Sano, director of the Asian Art Museum: "Through
      accessibility, information and the opportunity to encounter art that
      defines the philosophies, religions, aesthetic tastes and technical
      skills of Asian peoples over thousands of years, we hope to become
      the true bridge of understanding between East and West."

      Beginning today, the Chong-Moon Lee Asian Art Museum will be open
      Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended
      evening hours every Thursday until 9 p.m. Admission is $10 for
      adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for youth 12-17 and free for children
      under 12. The museum is located at 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco.
      For more information, call 415-581-3500.
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