I’ll begin with the ethics conclusion, and show how we get there.
If your organization, institution, or nation owes its existence to an individual that hindsight-wielding critics want to erase, your choice is to tell them to get lost while continuing to officially recognize the debt such organization, institution, or nation owes to that individual, or to dissolve the entity. Recognizing in some form the fact that a founder has blemishes on his or her past may be justified and practical. Continuing to benefit from that founder’s actions while metaphorically kicking him or her in the teeth, however, is unethical and, in fact, despicable.
Thus we arrive at the current controversy at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The focus of the mess is the bust of Adrian Brundage you see above. Brundage is most remembered as the long-time (twenty years) President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and most reviled for his decision not to cancel the Munich Games in 1972 after the terrorist attack on the Israeli team in 1972. (I agreed with him then, incidentally, and still believe that he was correct, and courageous, in his decision.) Brundage also, however, created the Asian Art Museum, which is the centerpiece of San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, and which Brundage gave to the city in 1966 to house his fabulous personal collection of approximately 8,000 art pieces.
The New York Times story about the emerging controversy at the museum begins, “For 48 years, visitors to this city’s Asian Art Museum have had to pass the bust of Avery Brundage.” That’s right, they “had” to pass that bust because what they were coming to see belonged to Avery Brundage, the museum’s collection was his gift, and it was and is appropriate for that to be respected and acknowledged.
Given an opportunity by the zeitgeist of the George Floyd Freakout, however, the museum’s director and chief executive, Jay Xu, announced to a meeting of the board and commissioners in June that he was having Brundage’s bust removed. There are two reasons given in the article. One is that Brundage was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semitic (with the decision not to stop the 1972 Olympics being cited as a prime piece of evidence for the latter), and that the museum he created “presents Asian art from a mostly white perspective.”
As for the last complaint, I will characterize it this way: it’s racism, pure and straight.
The George Floyd Freakout is being used to justify a national effort to “Get whitey,” and this disgusting outbreak of anti-white hatred (that so many white Americans are accepting with the meek submission and hollowed out character of post rats-in-his-face Winston Smith) will not end until sufficient numbers of the rational label it what it is: opportunistic hate and racism.
The museum presents Asian art from a “mostly white perspective” because the museum’s collection was originally created by a collector of Asian Art who was white. That does not justify an indictment of the collection, and if an Asian-American wants to establish a museum that reflects Asian art from a mostly Asian-American perspective—not an Asian perspective now, be consistent, you racists!—then that Asian-American is welcome to spend millions on his or her own collection, give it to the city, and see if anybody wants to see it. Continue reading