Jori Finkel of the New York Times reports that Yahoo’s cofounder, Jerry Yang, along with his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, have donated $25 million to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco for its $90 million refurbishment project. The benefactors are collectors of Chinese art: Yamazaki, the chair of the museum’s board, has an interest in ceramics from the Song dynasty, while Yang owns a selection of calligraphic works. “Both Akiko and Jerry stand out for their support of the arts and culture sector,” said Jay Xu, the director of the Asian Art Museum. Work on the museum is expected to start in January 2018 and be finished by the summer of 2019. A pavilion that will be built on top of the museum’s east wing, an out-of-doors terrace for public artworks, will be named after the couple.
Kulapat Yantrasast, a Los Angeles–based architect, is overseeing the museum’s renovations. In addition to the pavilion, Yantrasast will also be redesigning indoor exhibition and educational spaces, including galleries that highlight important works from the museum’s collections. While $38 million will go towards the renovations, the remaining $52 million will be set aside for various programs and the museum’s endowment.
But in 2010, the institution defaulted on a $120 million loan for a prior refurbishment, taken out just before its 2003 relocation to the Beaux-Arts building it currently occupies, a former library erected in 1917. In 2011 a bond insurer and JPMorgan Chase, the bank that loaned the money, forgave $21 million of the debt, while San Francisco guaranteed $99 million worth of thirty-year bonds in order to keep the museum running. Because of this, the museum is $90 million in arrears. Why would it start a second major renovation with this burden? “We can make the museum more valuable by creating a better visitor experience. People want to invest in growth in the future. They are not necessarily interested in helping you with old debt,” said Xu.