Monday, November 15, 2010

San Francisco Asian Art Museum's Trouble

San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco Asian Art Museum is in dire financial straits and could be forced into bankruptcy if it can't work out a new deal with its lender by Friday, according to knowledgeable sources:

According to its board minutes, the museum had a balanced budget as recently as June 2009 and was racking up record attendance.

Since then, however, attendance has fallen sharply and the place hasn't seen any donor gifts in a couple of years.

Even a ballyhooed exhibit to coincide with the opening of Shanghai's world trade expo in May failed to draw the anticipated crowds.

That last sentence seemed have pointed out the problems.  Shanghai's World Expo was a hyped event in China and was only an amusing and baffling anachronistic vanity display by the Chinese government of multiple levels, and the preparation of the Expo was characterized by forceful evictions and demolitions in Shanghai and became the symbol of injustice.  Museum goers in the U.S. cannot find any enthusiasm to the exhibit closely associated with such bizarre spectacle.

The "Shanghai" exhibit was a jumbled mess without clear curatorial direction and had little artistic merit and was a clear pandering to Chinese government and its ardent supports.  Perhaps, Asian Art Museum hoped to sell this exhibit to the large Chinese community in San Francisco but it seemed that cynical calculation has misfired.

It was reported that San Francisco government will not bail the museum out.  Perhaps, they should have asked the Chinese government to step in.

San Francisco Asian Art Museum is a cultural jewel and it is a shame that it's facing bankruptcy.  Let's hope that it will ride out of this turbulence and present us exhibits and collections with real artistic and historical merits.


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