Home / Sherman E. Lee: A Tribute

Honorary Life Trustee Sherman E. Lee (1918–2008)

It is hard to imagine the field of Asian art or Asia Society’s spectacular collection of Asian masterpieces (formed by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd) without the ever-discerning eye of Sherman E. Lee. Whether as Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, or as an advisor to private collectors such as Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. Dr. Lee was single minded in his pursuit of the highest aesthetic quality in works of art. At the same time, he was profoundly democratic in his commitment to making great works of art accessible to a diverse public.

He authored more than a dozen books, organized or coorganized some of the biggest and most important Asian art exhibitions of the late twentieth century, and was hailed widely as one of the greatest museum directors of his time. Lee was not only a close advisor to John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society’s founder, but was also an active Trustee and Honorary Life Trustee of Asia Society for more than four decades. Asia Society and the entire community of Asian art scholars are impoverished by his absence.

-Vishakha N. Desai
President, Asia Society

Vishakha N. Desai with Sherman E. Lee at the Asia Society Friends of Asian Art Annual Dinner honoring Lee, April 1998. Photo: Elsa Ruiz
Sherman E. Lee with two works from the Cleveland Museum’s collection. Image: Robert Falk, The Cleveland Museum of Art. Courtesy of Archives, the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Exhibitions organized by Sherman E. Lee at Asia Society, New York:

1960: “Masterpieces of Asian Art in American Collections”

1960–1961: “Rajput Painting”

1964: “Tea Taste in Japanese Art”

1969: “Chinese Art under the Mongols” and “Ancient Cambodian Sculpture”

1970: “Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd”

1974: “The Colors of Ink: Chinese Paintings and Related Ceramics from the Cleveland Museum of Art”

1975: “Asian Art, Part II: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd”