I've viewed and photographed many items that are attributed to The Avery Brundage Collection.
Eventually, I asked myself, "Who is Avery Brundage?"
So, I looked him up. You can read about him on Wikipedia. As with any of us, there is a nuanced human being who was not perfect by any means. His life is filled with significant accomplishments and contributions, and, in my opinion, positive qualities should be focused on. For me, it is his contributions to art that I'm interested in.
Although Wikipedia does contain errors throughout its vast encyclopedia ~ numerous factual errors I've caught myself, especially regarding Native Americans in Humboldt County, Calif., I still choose to quote from it because I have not found it that more inaccurate than standard encyclopedias and/or other sources.
In fact, on some subjects, I've found it is more accurate than traditional encyclopedias.
And, it is something I can quote from without getting a cease-and-desist order regarding copyrights. (I edited the article and changed the city of San Francisco to The City of San Francisco, as I was taught and still favor. I also have removed citations, so please read the full article in Wikipedia for references.)
"Brundage's interest in Asian art stemmed from a visit he made to an exhibition of Chinese art at the Royal Academy in London in early 1936, after the Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen," states Wikipedia. "Brundage stated of the experience, 'We [his first wife Elizabeth and himself] spent a week at the exhibition and I came away so enamored with Chinese art that I've been broke ever since.'
"He did not begin active collecting until after the Brundages' two-week visit to Japan in April 1939, where they visited Yokohama, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Nikko. They followed up Japan with visits to Shanghai and Hong Kong, but due to the war between Japan and China, were unable to explore further on Avery Brundage's only visit to mainland China—this disappointment bothered him his whole life.
"On his return to the United States after the June 1939 IOC session in London, Brundage systematically set about becoming a major collector of Asian art.
The unsettled conditions caused wealthy Chinese to sell family heirlooms, and prices were depressed, making it an opportune moment to collect. He bought many books on Asian art, stating in an interview that a 'major library is an indispensable tool'.
"After the US entered World War II, stock owned by Japanese dealers in the United States was impounded; Brundage was able to purchase the best items. Dealers found him willing to spend money, but knowledgeable and a hard bargainer.
Brundage rarely was fooled by forgeries, and was undeterred by the few he did buy, noting that in Asian art, fake pieces were often a thousand years old.
In his 1948 article on Brundage for Life, Butterfield noted that 'his collection is regarded as one of the largest and most important in private hands in this country'.
"Brundage engaged the French scholar René-Yvon Lefebvre d'Argencé, then teaching at the University of California, as full-time curator of his collection and advisor on acquisitions.
"The two men made a deal ~ no piece would be purchased unless both men agreed.
They built a collection of jade which ranged from the neolithic period to the modern era; and hundreds of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean bronzes, mostly Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
The painter who Brundage admired the most was Huizong, 12th-century Chinese emperor of the Sung Dynasty; the collector never was able to obtain any of his work.
"Brundage several times bought pieces smuggled out of their lands of origin to restore them there. When Brundage sold a piece, it was most likely because he no longer favored it artistically, rather than to realize a profit.
"In 1954, a financial statement prepared for Brundage listed the value of his collection as more than $1 million. In 1960, Robert Shaplen, in his article on Brundage for The New Yorker, noted that Brundage, during his travels as IOC president, always found time to visit art dealers, and stated that the collection was valued at $15 million.
"By the late 1950s, Brundage was increasingly concerned about what to do with his collection. His homes in Chicago and California were so overwhelmed with art that priceless artifacts were kept in shoeboxes under beds.
"In 1959, Brundage agreed to give part of his collection to The City of San Francisco. The following year city voters passed a bond issue of $2,725,000 to house the donation. The result was the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, which opened in 1966 in Golden Gate Park, initially sharing space with the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum before moving to its own facility near the Civic Center in 2003.
"Brundage made another major donation in 1969 (despite a fire which destroyed many pieces at his California home, 'La Piñeta' near Santa Barbara in 1964), and left the remainder of his collection to the museum in his will. Today, the museum has 7,700 pieces from Brundage among the 17,000-plus objects which make up its collection.
"Brundage connected the world of art and that of amateur sports in his own mind. In a speech to the IOC session in Tokyo in 1958, he discussed netsuke, used at one time by Japanese to anchor items hung from kimono sashes, and of which he owned several thousand; he held two in his hands as he spoke.
"He told the members that a netsuke was at one time carefully carved by the man who wore it, building 'something of himself into the design', and although a class of professional netsuke makers arose later, whose work might have been more technically adept, it was, 'ordinarily cold, stiff, and without imagination. ...
Missing was the element of the amateur carver, which causes these netsuke to be esteemed so much higher by the collector than the commercial product carved for money.' Brundage later commented about his speech, 'Here was the difference between amateurism and professionalism spelled out in a netsuke.'"
Mr. Brundage left a beautiful legacy, and I, for one, am so grateful.
Keywords:Asian, Asian Art Museum, Asian art, Avery Brundage, California, China, Chinese art, Chinese porcelain, Glenn Franco Simmons, Jiangxi Province, Jingdezhen, Museums As Art, Qing Dynasty, San Francisco, The Avery Brundage Collection, United States, Yongzheng Emperor, art, chrysanthemums, lobed dish, multicolor overglaze decoration, plum blossoms, porcelain
© Glenn Thomas Franco Simmons