The Tacoma Art Museum will be donating nine works of Chinese textile art – part of the controversial Young family collection that was withdrawn from auction last year – to the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation, a Tacoma-based non-profit that aims to promote civic harmony in light of the city’s past racial discrimination against Chinese immigrants.
Part of a larger collection of Chinese artifacts gifted to the museum by the late Colonel John and Mrs. Mary Young between 1966 and 1987, the textiles were the subject of a controversy last February after the museum’s board voted to deaccession the works through auction. While the museum felt that the works no longer fit the institution’s mission of Northwest-focused art, the family said that the gift reflected Northwest ties to China and selling it would show disrespect to the family and the Chinese community. After bringing a lawsuit, the Young family settled out of court with the museum to retain and find a new home for that part of the collection with the most personal value – the robes.
“The Youngs’ gifts to Tacoma Art Museum in the 1970s were an extraordinary and unusual gesture on both sides toward building understanding between cultures and communities,” said Beth Takekawa, executive director of The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience. “The Wing Luke Museum is excited and honored to play a role as stewards of these valuable materials and their associated legacy, significance, and meaning.”
While the Foundation will own the textiles, the Wing Luke will store and care for the items as well as managing access for educational use.
Both Al and Connie Young, son and daughter of the Young donors, said they were glad of the donation, and TAM director Stephanie Stebich commented that the gift both supported the missions of the Foundation and Wing Luke, and allowed the art to remain in the community.
“These garments will provide stories connecting the East and West and continue to share our story of reconciliation,” said Theresa Pan, president of the Foundation.