U-M Art Museum Awarded $5M in Chinese Ceramics, Endowment

The University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor has received a $5 million gift that includes ceramics and an endowment that will expand its Chinese ceramics collection.
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Chinese vase in the University of Michigan Museum of Art's collection
William Weese has donated more than $3 million worth of Chinese ceramics to the University of Michigan Museum of Art as part of a larger $5 million gift. // Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor has received a $5 million gift that includes ceramics and an endowment that will expand its Chinese ceramics collection.

William Weese, an alumnus and longtime museum supporter, provided the gift, which will create a new fund in support of scholarship and programming around ceramic arts.

“This incredible collection includes many representative objects from several major periods in the history of Chinese ceramics, with special strength in art from the Ming and Qing dynasties,” says Natsu Oyobe, curator of Asian art at the museum.

Weese gifted a collection valued at $3.35 million that includes more than 1,000 ceramics and decorative arts from China’s Neolithic period through the Ming and Qing dynasties, with pieces dating from as early as 3000 BCE through the mid-19th century.

Having works that span such a vast time period will allow the museum to highlight progression of techniques, trends, and tastes in Chinese ceramics, as well as how those trends and techniques filtered into the global ceramic arts scene.

“I have been studying and collecting Chinese art and ceramics since the early 1980s — the craftsmanship and history of the works has fascinated me my entire life,” Weese says. “My goal in gifting this collection to the University of Michigan is both to preserve it for generations to come, but also to help foster that same love and passion for the exploration of technique and history that I’ve developed over the years. I hope students embrace this love. I hope the community comes out to see it as well.”

The gift will also create a $1.7 million endowment to establish the William C. Weese, MD Endowment for Ceramic Arts to develop programs to further the education and appreciation of ceramic arts.

The fund will provide support for exhibitions, guest curators, consultants, new ceramic art commissions, museum staff, student internships or fellowships, ongoing research, program development, art acquisition, outreach efforts, symposia, and other initiatives.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Weese family for their generosity,” Oyobe says. “I just know that the passion and love they felt for these pieces will continue to live on at UMMA and inspire a new generation of interest and scholarship for ceramics.”

In 2017, Weese and his wife Lynn established the William C. Weese, M.D. and Lynn Wetherbee Weese Internship in Asian Art Fund. It supports student internship opportunities at the museum.

Weese has a career in pulmonology. Select pieces from the Weeses’ collection will be on view at the museum as early as this fall. Online museum visitors can explore the collection with interactive features and curator commentary.

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