By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
Al Young and his sister Connie Yu Young served the Tacoma Art Museum with a lawsuit on Thursday, Feb. 28, to stop the auction of their late parents’ donation to the Tacoma Art Museum. Then, on Tuesday, March 5, they withdrew the lawsuit following a concession from the Tacoma Art Museum.
The donation in question is a collection of Chinese imperial robes and jades given to the Tacoma Art Museum by the Young family in the 1970s.
The second auction of the collection will take place on March 12 at Bonham’s auction house in San Francisco, however, without several works slated to be donated to a Northwest institution in the near future.
“We regret that the conversation between us, the museum, and the community took the direction that it did,” said Al Young in a statement released by the Tacoma Art Museum. “We appreciate the museum hearing our concerns and we will work together to address them. We believe the museum’s increased emphasis on the work of Chinese American artists of the Northwest will fulfill our parents’ intentions.”
Young returned a call by the Northwest Asian Weekly but was unable to comment further.
As originally planned, some of the funds realized from the auction will be used to purchase art from Northwest Chinese artists. Those works will have the Young family name attached to them.
“Col. John C. and Mary Lee Young and their family have a rich legacy, which the museum will continue to recognize,” said Stephanie A. Stebich, director of the Tacoma Art Museum. “We are pleased that all has been resolved, and are happy that the Young family will continue to be a part of Tacoma Art Museum. We regret that the Young family heirs had the impression that the museum did not value the gift of their parents.”
Originally filed on Thursday, Feb. 28, in Pierce County Superior Court and prepared by Shakespear N. Feyisa and Laurie Shiratori, with input from Lem Howell, the lawsuit sought to prevent the March 12 auction of the Young collection.
During their travels abroad, the Youngs would seek out Chinese imperial robes and jades. The entirety of their collection was gathered from outside China and is made up of pieces that were removed from China during the tumultuous 20th century.
The Young family struck up a relationship with the Baskin family of Tacoma, eventually donating half of their textile collection and most of their jade collection to the Tacoma Art Museum in the 1970s. The other half of the textile collection was donated to Stanford’s Cantor Art Center.
The collection was a part of several well-reviewed exhibits during the Tacoma Art Museum’s early history, but had not been shown for several years.
Following their most recent review of the collection, the Tacoma Art Museum had decided to “deaccession” the Young collection, a process by which a museum formally transfers ownership of an object to another institution or individual.
The entire collection was valued between a low of $30,000 and high of $100,000.
However, at the first auction in December 2012, a small portion of the collection sold for $229,467.
That discrepancy set off a public outcry that resulted in letters of support from community members, former legislators, and one Native American tribe. (end)
For more information, see the previous story online at www.nwasianweekly.com/2013/02/tam-sale-of-chinese-treasures-upsets-donors-museum-sells-collection-of-jades-and-robes.
Charles Lam can be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.