Dr. Jay Xu has served as director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco since 2008, and he is the first Chinese American director at a major American art museum. Xu is committed to deepening understanding of Asian art and culture in the global context, and to advocating the art museum as an essential platform for cross-cultural understanding. Under his leadership, the museum launched the Transformation Project due to completion in summer 2020, which involves launch of contemporary art, expansion of exhibition and public spaces, renovation of collection galleries and education classroom, and investment in digital tools for deeper and richer audience engagement, all underwritten by a $100 million campaign.
Aside from his work at the Asian Art Museum, Xu serves in a variety of civic responsibilities. He is a member of the governing board of the Terra Foundation for American Art; a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors (North America); a member of the Advisory Council of the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; a member of the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Art Museums; a member of the Advisory Board of the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, UC Berkeley; a member of the Advisory Board of the Shanghai Museum; and a visiting senior professor at the College of Liberal Arts, Shanghai University.
In 2010, Xu was elected to the Committee of 100. In 2015, Dr. Xu became the first Asian American museum director elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Xu earned his MA and PhD in early Chinese art and archaeology at Princeton University, and has had nearly forty years of international museum experience as a research scholar, curator, and museum director. He previously served as assistant to the museum director at the Shanghai Museum; research fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; curator of Chinese art at the Seattle Art Museum. He also served as head of the Asian art department and chairman of the department of Asian and Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. An award-winning scholar of Chinese art, Xu focuses his academic research particularly on ancient Chinese bronzes and archaeology, and has also worked on topics in Chinese painting and calligraphy, Chinese ceramics, history of Chinese art collecting and museum development, and contemporary Chinese art. He lectures extensively on Asian art, including contemporary art, and on museum practice.