Jump to content

Mimi Gardner Gates

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mimi Gates
Mary Gardner

(1943-07-30) July 30, 1943 (age 80)
Alma mater
OccupationArt historian
(m. 1996; died 2020)

Mary "Mimi" Gates (née Gardner; born July 30, 1943)[1] is an American art historian who is the recent director of the Seattle Art Museum. In 1996, she married Bill Gates Sr., the father of Bill Gates.

Early life[edit]

Gates obtained 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 in Oriental and Chinese Studies from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. degree in Art History from Yale University.


An old friend of Teresa 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 during her tenure, 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 the Olympic Sculpture Park, which displaced the maintenance barn for the Waterfront Streetcar and caused its permanent shutdown.[8][9] By 2005, the museum's endowment had 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.[10] Gates has co-authored Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe [11] and Biblical Art and the Asian Imagination[12]

Gates retired from the Seattle Art Museum in 2009.[13]

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

Personal life[edit]

In 1996, Mimi married Bill Gates Sr., father of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Bill Sr. died in 2020.[14]


  1. ^ United States Public Record Number 485370969
  2. ^ Joel Connelly (March 7, 2005). "Teresa Heinz Kerry hasn't lost her outspoken way". Retrieved September 8, 2006.
  3. ^ Heinz Awards
  4. ^ The New York Times, March 31, 1985.
  5. ^ Jen Graves, "In Art News: Sunshine, Please", The Stranger, August 24–30, 2006.
  6. ^ Letter to the President’s Cultural Advisory Committee on behalf of the AAMD Archived October 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Jen Graves (November 6, 2007). "What Mimi Gates Loves". The Stranger. Archived from the original on December 8, 2007. Retrieved November 7, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Regina Hackett (March 29, 2005). "Mimi Gates, Seattle Art Museum's director, doesn't shy away from a challenge". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved September 3, 2006.
  9. ^ "Milestones on the rocky road to a waterfront park". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. January 17, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  10. ^ "SAM to Return Matisse Odalisque to Rosenbergs". Association of Art Museum Directors. June 14, 1999. Archived from the original on October 1, 2006. Retrieved September 8, 2006.
  11. ^ Julie Emerson, Jennifer Chen, Mimi Gardner Gates Porcelain Stories: From China to Europe 2000, University of Washington Press ISBN 0-932216-52-8
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ "Mimi Gates Announces Retirement as Director of the Seattle Art Museum". ArtDaily. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  14. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (September 15, 2020). "Bill Gates Sr., Who Guided Billionaire Son's Philanthropy, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2024.