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September 22, 1999
Dalai Lama Fan Gives $ 5 m For Asian Art Museum
R S Shankar in San Francisco
Say Dalai Lama and California, you would think of movie stars Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Goldie Hawn, the big-time cheer leaders for the Tibetan leader.
But don't forget Richard C Blum, who, along with his wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, recently gave $ 5 million to create a new Asian Art Museum that will cost $ 160 million and open in the year 2000. It will make the existing Asian Art Museum one of the biggest museums of its kind in the world. The new museum will also pay tribute Buddhist cultures from Tibet and other parts of Asia.
Blum, a San Francisco investment banker and an honorary consul general to Nepal, is the founder and chairman of the American Himalayan Foundation. He led the first American climbing team ever in an attempt in 1981 to scale the previously unclimbed east face of Mount Everest from Tibet.
The American Himalayan Foundation, since its inception 20 years ago, has sponsored over 170 projects in Nepal, India, Tibet, Bhutan, and Pakistan. Most of the projects funded are projects that involved education, health care, cultural preservation, and the environment.
Blum said his many years of personal and business involvement in Asia have created a deep respect for the people of the region and their art and culture.
"We feel it is important to continue to give back to Asia something that would reflect our gratitude for what it has meant in our lives, that would enrich our entire community and visitors," he said, adding that a first-rate art and cultural institution could provide that. "This donation gives us that opportunity and we are pleased to participate," he said
This gift of $ 5 million brings the campaign pledge total to $ 125 million toward the overall project goal of $ 160 million. It also reinforces the intent of the lead donor to the campaign, whose wish it was to create a center of art and culture. Chong-Moon Lee, businessman and philanthropist, gave a lead gift of $ 15 million to the New Asian project in 1995 to launch the campaign.
Recognizing that gift and agreeing with the intent, the Asian Art Museum has named the complex in which it and this new theater will reside as the Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Arts and Culture.
Lee said he was particularly pleased to see that Feinstein and Blum have joined in the campaign.
"They have long been known in Asia as interested and involved in our arts and culture. This is a fine expression of that appreciation," he added.
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted to Asian art, opened in 1966 as a result of a gift to the city of San Francisco by industrialist Avery Brundage. The museum's holdings include more than 12,000 art objects representing countries and cultures throughout Asia. Its collection is world-renowned and, as a city-owned asset in the multi-billion dollar category, its value is exceeded only by the city's own land and buildings.
The new Asian Art Museum will be in the former Main Public Library building, is the culmination of a decade-long effort by San Francisco to revitalize the Civic Center district. By the turn of the century, several buildings in the immediate vicinity of the new museum will be rebuilt or seismically renovated and architecturally restored.
These include the San Francisco City Hall, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the new San Francisco Main Library, the War Memorial Veterans Building, the Court House, the Civic Center complex and the Opera House. The combined cost for the Civic Center revitalization project is estimated at more than $ 1.3 billion.
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