Asian Art Museum to remove bust of Patron. That’s just a start.

By Carol Pogash

For 48 years, visitors to this city’s Asian Art Museum have had to pass the bust of Avery Brundage, its towering patron, an industrialist and former president of the International Olympic Committee. The museum, a jeweled attraction at Civic Center Plaza, was established in 1966 to house his nearly 8,000 art pieces.

But Brundage was also dogged by accusations that he was a Nazi sympathizer and a racist — something that has not escaped critics. After the museum posted a message about Black Lives Matter, Chiraag Bhakta, a Bay Area artist and designer, taunted its officials on Instagram with a selfie in front of Brundage’s bust and the added text: “Helllooo … Anyone home?”

When the museum reopens this summer, as the city relaxes its coronavirus quarantine, the bust prominently displayed in its foyer will be tucked into storage, the museum’s director and chief executive, Jay Xu, announced June 10 at a meeting of the board and commissioners. And that may be only the start.

Calls to remove the bust have gone further, to the heart of longtime discontent by some Asian American artists, who argue that the museum presents Asian art from a mostly white perspective.

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