finding jake lee: the paintings at kan's

Almost missed this awesome story from last month: Lost for Years, a Trove of Chinatown Art Is Tracked Down. Finding Jake Lee: The Paintings at Kan's is an art exhibit currently on display The Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco. The story behind the exhibit involves the search for a collection of long lost paintings, like a modern day detective story set in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Mr. Lee, a Chinese-American artist who studied in Oakland and who died in 1991, made 12 works for the then-glamorous Kan’s Restaurant in 1959. The poster-size watercolors hung in the Chinatown establishment for more than 30 years, but in the early ’90s they disappeared.

The works are notable for their rare depictions of Chinese-American history, including laborers working in vineyards, on shrimp farms and in cigar factories at the turn of the 19th century.

“People didn’t know where they were because the restaurant had changed hands, and the paintings were gone,” said Ms. Lee, the society’s executive director (she is not related to the artist).
Luckily, last year, the right people got a tip that the paintings were going up for auction in Southern California. Some of the works were recovered, and are now on display as crucial artifacts of Chinese American history. Read the rest of Bernice Yeung's story here. The exhibit runs through September 16, 2011. For more information, go to the Chinese Historical Society of America website here.

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