Yahoo Co-Founder Gives $25 Million to San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum

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A rendering of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, with the addition of the Akiko Yamazaki & Jerry Yang Pavilion that would feature an 8,500-square-foot exhibition space.

SAN FRANCISCO — In a rare example of high-level cultural philanthropy from Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial elite, Jerry Yang, a Yahoo co-founder, and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, have pledged $25 million toward a $90-million transformation project of the Asian Art Museum here. It marks the largest financial gift in the history of the museum, which is owned by the city but privately operated.

“We are in the right place at the right time,” said the museum’s director, Jay Xu, of the gift, which brings the pan-Asian museum up to the $61-million mark for fund-raising. “Both Akiko and Jerry stand out for their support of the arts and culture sector.”

Ms. Yamazaki is the museum’s board chair, and Mr. Yang and she both collect: her main focus is Song dynasty ceramics, while he has assembled a selection of Chinese calligraphy that was shown at the museum starting in 2012 and traveled to the Met in 2014.

The Bangkok-born, L.A.-based architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who recently transformed a Masonic Temple into the Marciano Foundation, has been overseeing the Asian Art Museum’s renovation and expansion, which is expected to break ground this January and be completed in summer of 2019.

The most striking addition will be a new structure on top of the museum’s east wing, to be called the Akiko Yamazaki & Jerry Yang Pavilion, featuring an 8,500 square-foot exhibition space. On top of the pavilion will be an open-air terrace for public art. Mr. Yantrasast is also redesigning education and exhibition spaces inside, including collection galleries that highlight the museum’s masterpieces.

Construction is budgeted at $38 million, with the rest of the $90 million earmarked for programs and endowment.

This is not the Asian Art Museum’s first renovation in its current home, a 1917 Beaux-Arts building in the Civic Center that long served as San Francisco’s main public library. Before taking over this space in 2003, the museum borrowed $120 million from JPMorgan Chase to finance a renovation by the Italian architect Gae Aulenti. In 2010, it defaulted on its loan. The following year, the bank and a bond insurer forgave $21 million in debt, and the city guaranteed $99 million worth of 30-year bonds in order to keep the museum open. The museum now carries $90 million in debt.

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