The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
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homeward bound




This page is something of a placeholder. I will try to update it before too long. Meanwhile, I have a photo essay on the museum here.


Mayor "Sunny Jim" Rolph in 1915

On March 20, 2003, the Asian opened in its new digs in Civic Center. Well, new to the museum, which had spent its first thirty-five or so years in a wing attached to the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park. The building itself was built as part of mayor Sunny Jim Rolph's restoration of Civic Center about a decade after the Great Earthquake. The home of the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library (which had been housed in the old 1870s-vintage City Hall and was destroyed with the collapse and burning of that building), it opened to the public in 1917. The building was designed by George W. Kelham, who had trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.



Gae Aulenti leading
a tour of the AAM construction site, 21 May 2002


The building's transformation into the home of a museum was directed by Gae Aulenti, whose best-known project was the redo of the Orsay museum in Paris, where she also began with a derelict beaux arts building.




The museum's collections — and its curatorial organizational structure — divide Asia into seven units:

  • South Asia
  • West Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • Himalayas
  • China
  • Korea
  • Japan

At Civic Center the galleries are arranged, beginning at the top of the south wing escalator, in that order (reflecting the general pattern of the spread of Buddhism).



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