Founded in 1933, the Seattle Art Museum is home to a premier collection of Chinese art. This book is the first to chronicle and analyze the growth of the collection, which was largely assembled during the first half of the twentieth century. Reviewing more than one hundred boxes of museum archives, annual reports, correspondences, and available records of all transactions, Josh Yiu provides a nuanced account of Seattle's Chinese art collection, and reconsiders the "golden age" of collecting Chinese art in the early twentieth century. Yiu demonstrates the challenges for Westerners to acquire authentic objects of historical significance when Chinese art study in the West was in its nascent stage. He argues that a first-rate collection is a condition that needs to be maintained through relentless quest for superior objects. As a case in point, Seattle's collection of more than 2,500 objects was not merely accumulated over time, but distilled through decades of nimble acquisitions and deaccessions.
The main figure behind this story is the founding director Dr. Richard Fuller (1897-1976), who started collecting as early as the 1910s. In contrast to conventional hagiographical accounts of museum patrons, Yiu shows how Fuller's interest shifted from tourist souvenirs to high-quality objects that represent China's artistic legacy, and how he refined the collection over time. Gradually Fuller became a great collector through diligent study and earnest consultation with experts, such as Sherman Lee. The book thus serves as a vivid reminder that good collection requires much more than resources and "good taste."
Director's ForewordPrefaceIntroduction 1. Richard Fuller: Collector of Chinese Art 2. The Transition from Private to Public Collecting 3. Recognizing New Opportunities 4. The Impact of Richard Fuller's Legacy AppendixReferencesPhotography Credits