||On March 20,
2003, San Francisco celebrated the Grand Opening the New Asian Art Museum/Chong-Moon
Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture at 200 Larkin Street in the old
Main Library. The 1917 building was updated by renowned architect Gae Aulenti
of Milan. The New Asian Art Museum was completed as the result of a $160.5
million public/private partnership including a $50 million bond initiative.
The museum features nearly 40,000 square feet of gallery space and will
hold more than 14,000 objects representing 6,000 years of history. The
oldest known Buddah in the world, a figure dated to 338 A.D., is among
the treasures of the "New Asian."
The opening day ceremony
was held the morning after U.S. forces invaded Iraq. California's Secretary
of State, San Franciscan
Kevin Shelley made
the sole mention of events in the Middle East during the ceremony when
he told those gathered, "War represents the worst of humankind; art represents
the best of humankind." The ceremony was interrupted by demonstrators for
only a few seconds during remarks by Museum Director Emily Sano, but the
scene was rife with drama. Helicopters swarmed overhead as news bureaus
followed the anti-war demonstrators who had shut down nearby intersections.
Surrounded by hundreds of art patrons, dignitaries, citizens, police officers,
and demonstrators, the City ushered in its new Asian Art Museum. The San
Francisco Boys' Chorus sang America the Beautiful and the National Anthem
to a somber crowd. A scheduled blast of 300,000 firecrackers was cancelled.