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Asian Art Museum announces $38 million renovation

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The Asian Art Museum’s expansion project includes a new pavilion and terrace. (Rendering courtesy wHY/ Asian Art Museum)
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The Asian Art Museum has big plans for the 21st century, including a $90 million capital campaign that will fund a new, $38 million state-of-the art exhibition pavilion and renovation to its main Civic Center building.

“We transform to ensure we remain essential for everyone. We are Asian for all,” said Akiko Yamazaki, philanthropist and chair of the museum’s governing boards at an event announcing the expansion today.

Calling the transformation “a major moment and milestone in a long journey,” museum director Jay Xu said the project will enhance visitors’ experiences by “creating a deeper, richer, more diverse platform of content and spaces.”

Thai architect Kulapat Yantrasast, whose company wHY designed the cutting-edge, environmentally-sanctioned Grand Rapids Art Museum in 2007, is at the helm of the project — which includes an added 8,500-square-foot indoor gallery, with huge bay windows and a terra cotta tile exterior, topped by a 7,200-square-foot terrace — off Hyde Street.

“I want people to have an art experience and know exactly where they are,” said Yantrasast, noting that changes to the original 1917 beaux arts main building (formerly The City’s main library, taken over by the Asian Art Museum with a redesign in 2003) will be subtle, paying respect to the structure’s history.

The flexibility of the new column-free, open-plan space will allow for large-scale exhibitions not possible in the museum’s divided structure, said Xu, who added that current ground-floor galleries will have new purposes — for education, community programs, digital innovations and permanent collection spotlights — following the renovation.

Groundbreaking is slated for January; the pavilion — to be named the Akiko Yamazaki & Jerry Yang Pavilion, thanks to the couple’s $25 million donation, the largest single gift in the museum’s history — is scheduled to open in summer 2019.

Yamazaki, who mentioned that one-third of San Francisco residents identify as Asian and that 60 percent of the world’s population is Asian, also said that upcoming programs will focus on world-class contemporary art.

Officials said the museum will remain open during construction as the capital campaign — which includes $27 million for programs and $25 million for endowments — continues. So far, 72 donors have contributed $60.5 million toward the $90 million target.

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