The museum’s recent original exhibitions include the popular “Lost at Sea: Art Recovered From Shipwrecks,” Philippine art — which Brundage never collected, art and electronic literature by Korean and American artists, as well as traditional arts from the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
Mark Johnson, an art professor at San Francisco State University, who has curated shows at the Asian Art Museum, said that while historically the museum was focused on a white perspective of Asian culture, it has made “incredible strides, diversifying its staff, board and curators,” adding that the curators are largely nonwhite.
The museum’s staff is 50 percent white, 27 percent Asian, 12 percent Latino and 7 percent black. (Some people identified as two or more races.) The board is about half Asian and Asian-American, and 73 percent of its curators are Asian and Asian mixed race. “We certainly recognize that there is always room for improvement,” Dr. Xu said.
Dr. Xu, responding to the Berkeley professor’s comment, said that in developing exhibitions, the museum does bring together scholars, community leaders and artists. “We’ve been working on decolonizing and creating a horizontal redistribution of power that can get at structural racism for years,” he said.
Mr. Tsuchitani and others praised the museum for appointing Abby Chen as head of contemporary art and senior associate curator in 2019, saying she comes from the Asian-American art community, but adding that the institution “still has a long ways to go,” he said.
But the museum is adapting to the changing climate.
This week it will offer an online reading of a theater piece about an African-American drag queen in San Francisco who in 1966 threw coffee in a police officer’s face, after he attempted an unwarranted arrest. That led to a riot, an early gay response to police harassment.