Mimi Gardner Gates

Mimi Gardner Gates

Mary 'Mimi' Gates (née Gardner) (b. ca. 1943) is an American art historian who is the recent Director of the Seattle Art Museum. She married William H. Gates, Sr., father of Bill Gates, in 1996. Gates has a B.A. in art history from Stanford University, a certificate with honors in Chinese language and culture from the École Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris, a master's from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. in art history from Yale. An old friend of Theresa Heinz Kerry,[1] she is also a frequent juror for the Heinz Awards, appointed by the Heinz Family Philanthropies to award outstanding achievement in the area of Arts and Humanities.[2]

She was curator of Asian art and then director of the Yale University Art Gallery.[3] At Yale, she contributed to the development of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) guideline discouraging the sale of artwork in a Museum's collection, even to cover operating costs. In a brief, she detailed her view that museum collections are "a public trust".[4] She has also lobbied the U.S. and Chinese negotiators to ensure that implementation of UNESCO rules about non-archaeological cultural exports do not tie the hands of American curators.[5]

She came to Seattle in 1994 to head the museum, and in her tenure, has added over 2500 works to the collections.[6] Among these are many Asian art treasures and works by Van Dyck, Albert Bierstadt, Richard Serra and Alexander Calder. The museum has also established a sculpture park. The museum's endowment has tripled to over $75 million and the region's first conservation studio was opened.[7] The museum was embarrassed when a Matisse painting in its possession was proven to have been looted by Nazis and legitimately owned by a French Jewish family, and Gates brokered an 11th hour settlement that returned the artwork, after which the museum sued the gallery which had sold it the painting in the 1950s.[8] Gates has co-authored Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe [9] and Biblical Art and the Asian Imagination [10]

In June 2007, Dr. Gates was elected by Yale alumni to serve a six year term commencing 1 July 2007 on the Yale Corporation, Yale University’s governing body.


  1. ^ Joel Connelly (March 7, 2005). "Teresa Heinz Kerry hasn't lost her outspoken way". http://www.seattlepi.com/connelly/214744_joel07.html. Retrieved 2006-09-08. 
  2. ^ Heinz Awards
  3. ^ New York Times March 31, 1985
  4. ^ The Stranger Aug 24 - Aug 30, 2006
  5. ^ Letter to the President’s Cultural Advisory Committee on behalf of the AAMD
  6. ^ Jen Graves (November 6, 2007). "What Mimi Gates Loves". The Stranger. http://podcasts.thestranger.com/2007/11/invisible_mimi_gates. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  7. ^ Regina Hackett (March 29, 2005). "Mimi Gates, Seattle Art Museum's director, doesn't shy away from a challenge". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. http://www.seattlepi.com/visualart/217823_mimigates.html. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  8. ^ "SAM to Return Matisse Odalisque to Rosenbergs". Association of Art Museum Directors. June 14, 1999. http://www.aamd.org/newsroom/r061499.php. Retrieved 2006-09-08. 
  9. ^ Julie Emerson, Jennifer Chen, Mimi Gardner Gates Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe 2000, University of Washington Press ISBN 0-932216-52-8
  10. ^ Patricia C. Pongracz, John W. Cook, Mimi Gates, Ena Heller Biblical Art and the Asian Imagination 2005, D Giles Ltd ISBN 1-904832-18-0

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