The Honolulu Museum of Art is saddened to learn of the death of Joanna Lau Sullivan, who has been an invaluable supporter of the museum, home to the much-photographed Joanna Lau Sullivan Chinese Courtyard and the Maurice J. Sullivan Family Gallery of Chinese Art. As a member of the museum’s board of trustees, Mrs. Sullivan’s daughter Kitty Wo continues the family’s philanthropic legacy at the museum.
“Joanna loved the museum and became a patron, donating not only Chinese art and a gallery for exhibitions but supported the wonderful, serene Chinese garden that will always remind us of how fortunate we are to have been touched by the warm friendship of Joanna and her gracious philanthropic spirit,” said Vi Loo, chairman of the board of trustees.
Loo was acquainted with Mrs. Sullivan for decades—their mothers were friends—and describes Mrs. Sullivan as someone who “appreciated beauty and understood the importance of art and the joy that it engenders. She collected exquisite snuff bottles and her eyes would sparkle as she talked about them—you could feed her pride when she shared them at an exhibition at the museum.”
In 2011, to celebrate Mrs. Sullivan’s birthday on July 4, an iliahi, or sandalwood, sapling was planted in the Joanna Lau Sullivan Chinese Courtyard. The event was arranged by Sullivan family friends Virginia and Leo Koulos, who asked Leigh-Wai Doo, the attorney and iliahi activist, to help find a tree. Pictured above are Joanna Lau Sullivan, second from left, with her daughters Kitty Wo and Jenai Wall, and emeritus trustee Charman Akina following the planting.
Shawn Eichman, curator of Asian art, often worked with Mrs. Sullivan, who was actively involved with the museum’s programs promoting Chinese art and culture. “She was especially interested in Chinese snuff bottles. In addition to donating her collection to the museum, part of which is on permanent display in the Sullivan Gallery, she also supported our 2010 special exhibition Interior Landscapes: The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, held to coincide with the International Snuff Bottle Society’s annual meeting in Honolulu.”
Eichman praises the entire Sullivan family for being “tireless and passionate advocates for the Hawai‘i community, and through their support of the museum, as through their other philanthropic activities, they have created an enduring legacy that extends across generations of people who have gained a deeper appreciation of the arts.”
On a personal level, Eichman says “Mrs. Sullivan was one of the kindest and most thoughtful individuals I have known, and she was always thinking of others before herself. She always made a special point to ask me about my family and my work, and to show a personal interest in me, for which I am deeply grateful.”