In the last year, Seattle Art Museum has gotten attention for new architecture, big-name sculpture, and a giant donation of art from various donors to celebrate its new facilities.
But Asian art has always been a specialty of SAM. The place was founded by an Asian art collector—and even now it's run by a scholar of Chinese art who happens to be more famous as Bill Gates's stepmother, Mimi Gardner Gates.
Gardner Gates is not a particularly contemporary soul, or tech-savvy; before we turned on the recorder for this podcast, I introduced her to the concept of Wikipedia, and showed her her own page, which includes a reference to her old friendship with Teresa Heinz Kerry. Of the page, she would like to correct the date of her arrival in Seattle—it was 1994, not 1995—and she would like to know why Bruce Hornsby "lent her special thanks in the liner notes on his 1993 album Harbor Lights." (She did not know he had done that, and she does not know him.)
But here is a rare example of Gates talking about the art she loves, and explaining why. A few times she even seems to break out of official museum-director mode.
Three pieces she geeks out on in particular:
14th-century Chinese porcelain painted in underglaze cobalt blue
Chinese vase from early 1700s, porcelain with copper red glaze
14th century ink on paper Flowering Plum branch, by the "amateur" artist Yang Hui