University of Michigan Museum of Art expands Chinese ceramics collection with $5M gift

Donation from William Weese sees launch of Weese Program

(From L-R): Vase, China, Qing dynasty (18th century), soft past porcelain with blue underglaze and painting. Brush Holder, China, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662 - 1722), porcelain with glaze. Meiping Vase, China, Qing dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662 - 1722), porcelain with glaze. All promised gifts of William C. Weese. (University of Michigan Museum of Art)

ANN ARBOR – Longtime University of Michigan Museum of Art supporter and U-M alumnus William Weese has donated a collection of art and endowment that has a combined value of roughly $5 million to the museum.

The pieces, some dating back to 3000 BCE, are expanding UMMA’s Chinese ceramics collection.

The gift will also kickstart a new fund in support of programming and scholarship around ceramic arts, which will help the museum position itself as a national leader in ceramic and Asian art, according to Asian art curator at UMMA Natsu Oyobe.

“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,” Oyobe said in a release.

The collection Weese donated contains more than 1,000 ceramics and decorative arts from the Ming and Qing dynasties, and it estimated to have a value of $3.35 million.

“Having works of art that span such a vast time period will allow the museum not only to tell the progression of techniques, trends and tastes in Chinese ceramics, but how those trends and techniques filtered into the broader, more global ceramic arts scene,” reads a UMMA release.

Weese said Chinese art and ceramics have fascinated him his whole life.

Guanyin, China, Qing Dynasty (18th century), blanc de chine porcelain with glaze. Promised gift of William C. Weese, M.D., LSA ‘65. (University of Michigan Museum of Art)

“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 said in a release. “

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.”

A $1.7 million William C. Weese, MD Endowment will also be established for Ceramic Arts to “develop, promote and implement programs to further the education, appreciation and understanding of ceramic arts.”

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

A touring exhibition set for 2022 titled “Clay as Soft Power” will explore what role ceramics played in diplomacy following World War II.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Weese family for their generosity,” Oyobe said in a release. “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.”

Together with his wife Lynn, Weese established an Asian Art Fund in 2017 to support student internships at UMMA, particularly the study of Asian art.

Visitors to UMMA can see select pieces from the collection as early as fall 2021.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.