Mimi Gardner Gates

Mimi Gardner Gates

Mary "Mimi" Gates (née Gardner) (born July 30, 1942)[1] is an American art historian who is the recent Director of the Seattle Art Museum. In 1996, she married William H. Gates, Sr., father of Bill Gates.


Gates has a B.A. degree 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, an M.A. degree from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. degree in history from Yale University. An old friend of Theresa Heinz Kerry,[2] 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.[3]

She was curator of Asian art and then director of the Yale University Art Gallery.[4] 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".[5] 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.[6]

She came to Seattle in 1994 to head the museum, and in her tenure, has added over 2500 works to the collections.[7] 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.[8] In 1999, the museum discovered that a Matisse painting in its possession was looted by Nazis and owned by the descendants of French-Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg. Gates brokered an 11th-hour settlement that returned the artwork, after which the museum sued the gallery that had sold it the painting in the 1950s.[9] Gates has co-authored Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe [10] and Biblical Art and the Asian Imagination[11]

Gates, elected by Yale alumni, served a six-year term, commencing July 1, 2007, on the Yale Corporation, Yale University’s governing body.


  1. ^ United States Public Record Number 485370969
  2. ^ Joel Connelly (March 7, 2005). "Teresa Heinz Kerry hasn't lost her outspoken way". Retrieved 2006-09-08. 
  3. ^ Heinz Awards
  4. ^ New York Times, March 31, 1985.
  5. ^ Jen Graves, "In Art News: Sunshine,Please", The Stranger, August 24 - August 30, 2006.
  6. ^ Letter to the President’s Cultural Advisory Committee on behalf of the AAMD
  7. ^ Jen Graves (November 6, 2007). "What Mimi Gates Loves". The Stranger. Retrieved 2007-11-07. 
  8. ^ Regina Hackett (March 29, 2005). "Mimi Gates, Seattle Art Museum's director, doesn't shy away from a challenge".  
  9. ^ "SAM to Return Matisse Odalisque to Rosenbergs".  
  10. ^ Julie Emerson, Jennifer Chen, Mimi Gardner Gates Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe 2000, University of Washington Press ISBN 0-932216-52-8
  11. ^ 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