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Five Million Dollar Gift Expands U-M Museum of Art’s Chinese Ceramics Collection, Creates Weese Program In Ceramic Art

Five Million Dollar Gift Expands U-M Museum of Art’s Chinese Ceramics Collection, Creates Weese Program In Ceramic Art

Tea Pot, China, Qing dynasty (18th century), soft past porcelain with glaze, Promised gift of William C. Weese, M.D., LSA '65, PG2020.2.27

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) is excited to announce a gift that will greatly strengthen the Museum’s place as a leader in ceramic arts and continue to build its nationally renowned collection of Asian art.  

University of Michigan alumnus and long-time UMMA supporter William C. Weese MD (BS ‘65) has given a gift of art and endowment with a combined value of approximately $5 million that will expand the museum’s Chinese ceramics collection and create a new fund at the museum in support of scholarship and programming around ceramic arts. 

The collection Dr. Weese gifted, which is valued at $3.35 million, 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 to the mid 19th century.

“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,” said Natsu Oyobe, curator of Asian art at UMMA. 

Bill WeeseHaving 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. 

“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. 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,” Dr. Weese said. 

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

This endowment fund will be used to 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 related to ceramic arts at UMMA. A touring exhibition planned by UMMA for 2022 titled Clay as Soft Power will explore the role of ceramics as a diplomatic tool following World War II. Other initiatives will be developed and unveiled in the coming years. 

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

Dr. Weese is a long-time University of Michigan supporter and has built a strong legacy of developing programs in the arts and humanities. Together with his wife Lynn, he established the William C. Weese, M.D. and Lynn Wetherbee Weese Internship in Asian Art Fund in 2017. This gift supports student internship opportunities at UMMA and encourages students to study and appreciate Asian art. 

Dr. Weese has balanced a career in pulmonology with a passion for Asian art, and specifically Chinese art. He and Lynn are also deeply committed to supporting students and have established scholarships at several other universities in the medical and nursing fields.

Select pieces from the Weese’s collection will be on view at UMMA as early as fall 2021. Meanwhile, online museum visitors can explore the collection in-depth with interactive features and curator commentary. Visit http://umma.umich.edu/weese to start exploring.

Explore the Weese Collection

Take an in-depth look at select objects in the Weese Collection of Chinese Ceramics and learn more about the historical importance of these pieces. 

Explore the Collection

Brush holder, China, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Reign (1662-1722), porcelain with glaze, Promised gift of William C. Weese, M.D., LSA '65, PG2020.2.60A&B