Mimi Gates | Director, Seattle Art Museum

Mimi Gardner Gates joined the Seattle Art Museum as Director in May 1994. She is a scholar of Asian Art with a strong interest in Chinese painting, ceramics and the history of ornament.

She received her B.A. degree from Stanford University in Asian history; an Honors diploma in Chinese Language and Culture from the École Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes, Paris; an M.A. degree in Oriental and Chinese studies from the University of Iowa (1968) and a PhD. in Art History from Yale University (1981).

She began her tenure at Yale University Art Gallery in 1975, serving as Curator of Asian art through 1987 and as director from 1987 to May 1, 1994. Gates helped organize numerous Chinese Art exhibitions, and contributed to several publications including Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice: The Flowering Plum in Chinese Art (1985). During her directorship (1987-94), the Yale University Art Gallery created a conservation studio, added a department of European and Contemporary art, expanded its collections and embarked on an ambitious program of exhibitions, many of which were organized by faculty and students.

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As director of the Seattle Art Museum, Gates has aggressively led the museum forward, embarking on significant capital projects, including building a new downtown expanded art museum, creation of the Olympic Sculpture Park, renovations to the 1933 Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, and establishment of a conservation studio. In addition to overseeing the growth of SAM, she oversaw the organization of major exhibitions and scholarly publications.

Gates has served as president and trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors, chaired the Federal Indemnity panel (1999 – 2002) at The National Endowment for the Arts, sat on the Advisory Board of the Getty Leadership Institute and is currently a member of the Governing Board of the Yale University Art Gallery. In addition, she is a member of the Board of the Northwest African American Museum, the Greater Seattle YWCA, Downtown Seattle Association, and Copper Canyon Press.