Thursday, March 21, 2013

Family files, then drops lawsuit against Tacoma Art Museum for selling donated art

By Valery Jorgensen, Guest Writer

When the Tacoma Art Museum decided to sell a collection of Chinese robes and jades, the collection’s donors filed a lawsuit. The Young family claimed in their lawsuit that the sale reflected Tacoma’s negative disposition toward the Chinese community.

The Youngs dismissed the lawsuit on March 5.

In a statement publicized the same day in the Tacoma Art Museum Media Release, Al Young said, “we regret that the conversation between us, the museum and the community took the direction that it did.”

Young’s parents, John and Mary Young, traveled overseas and collected Chinese art. After they retired from the restaurant business in San Francisco, the Youngs decided to leave their collection of robes, which are examples of embroidery from the Qing Dynasty, and jades to the Tacoma Art Museum.

The couple said did this so the public would have the opportunity to appreciate the robes and jades as well. The Youngs said they thought their donation would remain with the museum permanently.

Al Young said he was angry at the thought of his parent’s treasures being sold. Young, quoted in a Seattle Times March 3 article, said “those things were gifted to Tacoma and to the Northwest so that we can see examples of Chinese art. Now they’re going to be gone forever. And they’re just being used for currency.”

The Tacoma Art Museum representatives said the museum’s authorities decided to auction off the collection in order to raise money for new works that fit more closely with the museum’s mission.

Stephanie Stebich, museum director, is quoted in the Seattle Times article describing the museum’s mission to have “the premier collection of Northwest art,” explaining the jades and robes did not fit in. Stebich also said the museum told Al Young and his sister the plan to sell off the collection in advance and the Youngs had not objected.

The Tacoma Art Museum and the Young family reached an agreement, leading to the dismissal of the lawsuit. The museum raised $230,000 from the sale of a third of the Chinese artifacts. Stebich said the museum is working on ideas to appease the Young family, possibly by acquiring works by Chinese-American artists.

The Tacoma Art Museum auctioned off the rest of the collection on March 12.

*Information collected from Tacoma News Tribune and The Seattle Times