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Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Gender Bias in the Olympics: The Impact and Legacy of Avery Brundage

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The museum is launching a series of conversations to critically examine Avery Brundage (1887–1975), former president of the International Olympic Committee, and the collection of Asian art he donated to San Francisco in 1959. His donation of 8,000 objects form the nucleus of the Asian Art Museum founded in 1966, with a collection now numbering 18,000 artworks. This series of panel discussions will explore race, colonialism, and power in both the founding of the museum and its subsequent history. Combined with ongoing research on the provenance of objects donated by Brundage, the conversations will help frame these issues for the museum and the community it serves. Information about upcoming programs will be posted on the website as details are confirmed or sign up for email alerts.

 

Asian Art Museum Director Jay Xu hosts a conversation with sports sociologist Harry Edwards and political scientist Jules Boykoff about Avery Brundage, the founding donor of the museum’s collection, exploring his racist and anti-Semitic actions in Olympic history. This program is one in a series of conversations critically reexamining Avery Brundage and the history of the Asian Art Museum.

When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in a Black Power salute during a 1968 Olympics medal ceremony, it brought international attention to the struggle for African American civil rights in the United States. Avery Brundage, who was then president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), condemned their protest and ousted them from the Olympic Village. Nine years earlier, Brundage had donated 8,000 objects from his collection of Asian art to the City of San Francisco in order to “build a bridge of understanding” between the U.S. and Asia.

The panelists will discuss how athletes are continuing to engage in anti-racist protests and how many team owners and league commissioners are continuing to follow Brundage’s harmful playbook. They will also explore how the Asian Art Museum can further its mission to build bridges while disavowing Brundage’s actions as president of the IOC.

 

Dr. Harry Edwards, professor emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley, put the discipline of sports sociology on the map. He has long fought for equality for Black athletes on and off the field and for diversifying the leadership of sports organizations. He was the lead organizer behind the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), which led to Smith’s and Carlos’s Black Power salutes, and he continues to mentor athletes protesting today. He is the author of several books and articles, notably “The Struggle that Must Be” (1980), “Sociology of Sport” (1973), “Black Students” (1970), and “The Revolt of the Black Athlete” (1966).

Dr. Jules Boykoff, professor of political science at Pacific University in Oregon, is the author of four books on the Olympics, most recently, “NOlympians: Inside the Fight Against Capitalist Mega-Sports in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Beyond” (2020) and “Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics” (2016). His writing has appeared recently in academic journals such as Sociology of Sport Journal and the Connecticut Journal of International Law as well as in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Nation. A former professional soccer player, he represented the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team in international competition.

Dr. Jay Xu, Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Xu is committed to deepening understanding of Asian art and culture and to advocating for art museums as educational platforms for cross-cultural understanding. Xu earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in early Chinese art and archaeology at Princeton University, and has had nearly 40 years of international museum experience as a research scholar, curator, and museum director.