Asia Society Museum Receives $2 Million Grant from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation

NEW YORK, January 13, 2016 — Asia Society Museum announced today that it has received a $2 million grant from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, a charitable organization in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The monies will be used to establish a new endowment at Asia Society, The Mary Griggs Burke Fund, dedicated to exhibition development, as well as related educational programming, including a lecture series.

“This generous, transformative gift from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation will allow Asia Society Museum to bring greater resources to bear in the design of its world-class exhibition program,” says Asia Society President Josette Sheeran. Adds Boon Hui Tan, Vice President for Global Arts and Culture and Director, Asia Society Museum: “The Mary Griggs Burke Fund will give us greater capacity to deepen the scholarly research that informs each of our exhibitions and stimulate greater innovative thinking in how we can present traditional, modern, and contemporary Asian art at the Asia Society Museum.”

The Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation has long been a supporter of Asia Society Museum’s exhibitions as both a grantee and a lender, most recently supporting the forthcoming exhibition “Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan,” which will be on view February 9 to May 8, 2016, and will include works from the collection of Mary Griggs Burke now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Mary Griggs Burke (1916–2012) and Asia Society Founder John D. Rockefeller 3rd (1906–1978) both began building major collections of Asian art in New York in the 1960s. Each admired the other’s dedication to the importance of Asian art and culture at a time when there were relatively few Americans seriously interested in this work.

Born in 1916 and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mrs. Burke cites in her writings that a kimono belonging to her mother, Mary Livingston Griggs, brought back from a trip to Japan in 1902, was the origin of her fascination with Japanese and Asian art. Mrs. Burke’s visit to Japan in 1954 was the first of over thirty trips she made in her lifetime. She began collecting Japanese art—remarkable objects from Japan’s prehistoric era to the present day—with her husband, Jackson Burke. She built a world renowned collection of more than one thousand East Asian art objects over a period of five decades. The Mary Griggs Burke Collection has been generally recognized as one of the most important collections of Japanese art to have been in private hands outside of Japan. Through the generosity of Mrs. Burke, it has been accessible for study by scholars, students, and specialists in the field, as well as to the general public through loans and exhibitions held at museums here and abroad.

About Asia Society Museum

Asia Society Museum organizes groundbreaking exhibitions of traditional, modern, and contemporary Asian art, many undertaken in partnership with leading international museums and important private collections globally.

The Museum is known for its Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of traditional Asian artworks, which was formed in earnest after the establishment of Asia Society in 1956. With the guidance of the noted scholar of Asian art Sherman Lee, John D. Rockefeller 3rd and Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller chose classical masterpieces of Asian art rather than building a historical survey. Although the collection comprises approximately 300 objects, it is nevertheless regarded as one of the most notable collections of Asian art in the United States. It includes objects from diverse nations such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam that date from the eleventh century BCE to the nineteenth century CE. It has particular strengths in Chinese ceramics of the Song and Ming periods, Chola-period Indian bronzes, and Southeast Asian sculptures.

The collection was a promised gift to the Society and served as a primary impetus for the building of the Society’s headquarters at 725 Park Avenue, which opened to the public in 1981. The artworks were given to Asia Society upon the death of Mr. Rockefeller in 1978, and the collection now encompasses the original gift plus a number of objects bequeathed from the estate of Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller and subsequent acquisitions.

In the early 1990s, Asia Society Museum became one of the first American museums to establish a program of contemporary Asian art. A recognized leader in identifying and fostering contemporary Asian and Asian American artists, the Museum announced the establishment of a Contemporary Art Collection in 2007, launched with a gift of twenty-eight works of video and new media art. The collection aims to represent the rapidly evolving field of contemporary art across Asia. The first phase of the collecting program is focused on video, animation, and new media works of art. In addition, Asia Society Museum was the first U.S. museum to organize solo shows of the now widely recognized artists Montien Boonma, Cai Guo-Qiang, Dinh Q. Lê, Yuken Teruya, Lin Tianmiao, and Zhang Huan.