The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has covered an entry way bust of Avery Brundage. (Courtesy Asian Art Museum)

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has covered an entry way bust of Avery Brundage. (Courtesy Asian Art Museum)

Asian Art Museum deals with dark shadow of Avery Brundage

Entry way bust of racist benefactor has been covered

Born into China’s deadly Cultural Revolution, Jay Xu today is leading a difficult and overdue cancel culture campaign at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

As director of the museum, Xu has long been concerned about the association of his multi-ethnic institution with Avery Brundage, who donated his 8,000-object collection of Asian art to San Francisco in 1959 to help create the museum, but was known as a Nazi sympathizer while he served on the International Olympic Committee.

“Brundage gave the art, but the people of San Francisco built it a home,” says Xu, “The collection now exceeds the cultural interests of Brundage (and his times) and reflects the cultural diversity of Asia and the Bay Area.”

As the first action in the campaign, Brundage’s bust at the entrance to the museum has been covered up, with a note of explanation next to it. Xu says plans to remove it were postponed by the pandemic. “The urgency of current events and the calls for confronting racist legacies show that removing the bust was always going to be the right decision,” Xu says.

The note reads, in part: “We publicly condemn Brundage for the harms he inflicted via the Olympic platform. His beliefs and actions contradict the Asian Art Museum’s mission to inspire new ways of thinking by connecting diverse communities to historic and contemporary Asian art and culture. Therefore, the sculpture does not belong in this entryway.”

Before he became president of the International Olympic Committee in 1952 for a 20-year stint in the position, Brundage played an important role in overcoming national and international opposition to awarding the 1936 Olympics to Nazi Germany.

Near the other end of his reign, Brundage was instrumental for punishing Black running champions John Carlos and Tommie Smith after they raised their fists on the medals platform at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in support of Black power.

In addition to having a racist and anti-Semitic reputation, Brundage also stood against women’s participation in Olympic events, saying that it’s “not truly feminine, like putting a shot” or long-distance running. He continued in the tradition of his predecessor Baron Pierre de Coubertin,who declared that “an Olympiad with females would be impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and improper.”

A recording of a museum-presented, streamed public discussion called “Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Gender Bias in the Olympics: The Impact and Legacy of Avery Brundage,” with Xu, sports sociologist and civil rights activist Harry Edwards and political science professor Jules Boykoff can be seen online at https://youtu.be/rBc6z_RSli8.

museumMuseums and Galleries

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco lacks housing data that would let it track rental vacancies and prices. New legislation is seeking to change that.<ins> (Photo by Joel Angel Jurez/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Landlords blast proposal to require annual report on rentals as invasion of privacy

Housing inventory could give city better data on housing vacancies, affordability

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

Health care workers would be the first group in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
Hope on the way: Here’s what to know about California’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

The first batch of doses could hit the state as soon as early December

The Big Game was played Friday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. (Shutterstock)
Stanford blocks extra point to stun Cal, win 123rd Big Game 24-23

The 123rd edition of the Big Game featured a number of firsts.… Continue reading

Most Read