By GWEN MURANAKA, editor-in-chief of Rafu
A post by Los Angeles County Museum of Art curators Sharon Takeda and Hollis Goddall expressed what many who knew Jacqueline Avant have felt since her tragic death on December 1.
“Jacquie’s fairytale life, which ended so tragically, fills our hearts with endless rain.”
Avant, 81, was an avid collector of Japanese lacquerware, which grew out of a fascination with Japan that began when he was young by reading Lafcadio Hearn and “The Tale of Genji”. That interest was just one aspect of what has been a remarkable life with husband Clarence Avant, the legendary Music Director who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in October.
She was shot and killed on December 1 in an apparent break-in at the couple’s home in Trousdale Estates in Beverly Hills. Aariel Maynor, 29, is facing trial on murder and other charges at the airport branch courthouse, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Avant was born March 6, 1940 in Jamaica, Queens, NY, and was a former Ebony Fashion Fair model. Netflix documentary “The Black Godfather” describes the couple’s relationship as the foundation for Clarence Avant’s remarkable rise in entertainment and political circles. The couple’s daughter, Nicole, served as ambassador to the Bahamas during the Obama administration and is married to Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix.
âThe Forwards came from very modest backgrounds and they have never forgotten him. They have dealt with you on a very personal level. They treated everyone equally, âsaid Robert Hori, cultural curator and director of programs at Huntington Library Gardens.
âThey got a call from Hillary Clinton and she was like, ‘Hi Hillary! How are you?’ They were able to bring things down to a basic level.
In a joint statement, Goddall and Takeda said Avant was a friend, confidante and mother figure, who supported the museum’s efforts in Japanese arts and education. Avant volunteered as a guide at LACMA’s Japanese Art Pavilion. In 2013, Goddall organized an exhibition at the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas of 40 works from the Avant lacquer collection.
âShe was a very unique person who connected a lot of different worlds, very gently and with love,â Takeda said. “Jacquie made an impression, without anyone feeling hierarchical, everything was very personal and individual and very authentic.”
At LACMA, Avant helped fund the acquisition of a box of incense by leading lacquer artist Yamamura Shinya, a contemporary print by Hasegawa YÅ«ichi with lacquer used as a pigment, and, with her husband Clarence, supported the acquisition of three pieces of Kakiemon porcelain, a book of modernist drawings by Furuya KÅrin and an ink painting of a hawk by TenryÅ« DÅjin.
She was co-chair of Nichi Bei Fujin Kai from 2016 to 2018 and was an active member. Avant was with members of Nichi Bei Fujin Kai on November 17 for a lunch at the Consul General’s residence to mark the organization’s 90th anniversary.
Misako Muto, Honorary President of Nichi Bei Fujin Kai, said, âIt is with sorrow and sadness that my husband and I learned of the passing of Ms. Jacqueline Avant, and we extend our sincere condolences to the family.
âJacqueline has contributed to the relationship between Japan and the United States as well as to the mutual understanding of the two countries through her work as co-chair of the Japan-United States Women’s Association and by helping the interactions of women. between Japan and the United States for many years. Jacqueline also loved Japanese art and introduced Japanese culture to the United States through her collections and through exhibitions at LACMA and the Crow Museum of Asian Art. We reflect and greatly appreciate these efforts.
In a statement, the Avant family said, âJacqueline was an extraordinary wife, wife, mother and philanthropist and a resident of Beverly Hills for 55 years who has had an immeasurable positive impact on the arts community. She will be missed by her family, friends and everyone she has helped throughout her amazing life.
Janet LeBlanc, who served as co-chair with Avant, noted that despite her busy schedule, Avant was always ready to help, citing the creation of a new pin for Nichi Bei Fujin Kai’s 80th birthday in 2010.
âJacquie patted me on the shoulder and said, ‘Can I help?’ It was the start of a precious friendship. It turned out that, like in Jacquie’s usual way, she helped get the job done beautifully and efficiently, âsaid LeBlanc. âFrom that point on, we enjoyed sharing stories about our families, our health, our travels etc. “
Bruce Coats, professor of art history at Scripps College, recalled that Avant had loaned part of his lacquer collection to Scripps for exhibitions in 2010 and 2016 and had supported a series of lectures.
âMany of his lacquer pieces were decorated with scenes from the novel or symbols from its 54 chapters. Over the years, Jacquie and I have had enthusiastic conversations about the narrative, and she attended campus exhibitions that showcased “Genji” and Japanese arts. Jacquie also supported the Samella Lewis Contemporary Art Collection which showcases African American artists and in 2007 helped fund the bronze casting of Scripps graduate Alison Saar’s sculpture “Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial” , Coats said.
A shared love for Japanese arts and culture drew Avant to a close circle of friends. Recently, she joined Toshie Mosher when the Huntington Library named her a new rose hybrid, “Peace and Harmony.”
Hori explained that the essence of Clarence and Jacquie was their ability to connect and build relationships: âThe talent and skill of Forwards is being able to make and create connections and facilitate relationships. What is really an important skill, this pairing â,
An example of this talent is the 320-year-old Magistrate’s House in Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture, acquired by The Huntington in 2016. The historic Yohko and Akira Yokoi House is currently under restoration and will be a centerpiece. of the Japanese garden. Two smaller structures, known as the kura, or âtreasure housesâ, which once served as warehouses for village rice and family treasures; other upcoming features include stones, lanterns, and a bridge.
Hori explained that The Huntington was in discussions with Avant to bring his lacquer collection to the museum. House Yokoi appeared at a small gathering at Avant in March 2015.
âI told Jacquie that we needed a place to house the collection. Ms. Yokoi said at the birthday party, âOh, we have a houseâ. This is how the relationship and the arrival of House Yokoi in The Huntington began, âsaid Hori.
âSome of her collection were utilitarian items – mirrors, cosmetic boxes and combs – so we figured Yokoi House would be a perfect place to display them. Ms. Yokoi and Jacquie became friends because Jacquie put these together. things and Ms. Yokoi knew what they were.
A celebration of the Before Life will take place after the holidays. Her family established the Jacqueline Avant Memorial Fund for the new MLK Children’s Center in Watts, in accordance with her wishes.
âShe believed in past lives. He was a very sensitive person, âsaid Hori. “She said, ‘I feel like in a past life I must have been Japanese.'”