Patricia Salmon '54, Charmed Citizen of the World
by Meg Prince Alexander ’94
San Antonio native Patricia Salmon ’54 knew she wanted to travel as soon as she graduated from Trinity with a degree in speech and drama. What she didn’t know was that her desire would turn her into a global traveler and a collector of one of the most rare modern art collections in the world.
Her private Japanese art collection – accumulated over more than 25 years – is now one of the principal collections in the traveling Honolulu Academy of Art exhibit, “Taishō Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco” showing at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio from March 15-June 5, 2005.
Promoted as “one of the most unusual modern art exhibitions ever presented in San Antonio,” the exhibit focuses on art of the Greater Taishō Era (1900-1935), marking a time when all aspects of Japanese culture embraced Western influences.
Salmon, recruited to join Pan American Airways as a flight attendant during her senior year at Trinity, traveled to South America, Australia, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok. “I just fell in love with Asia,” she says.
Years after leaving Pan Am, she was still hoping for a reason to return to the region. A television documentary about Western charm schools in Asia gave her an idea. Although she barely spoke a word of Japanese, Salmon found herself moving to Japan in 1961.
Originally intending to teach charm school to Japanese women, Salmon’s business enterprise developed into a modeling agency – the first of its kind to supply American models for Japanese advertisements. In her spare time, she began collecting antiques. Eventually, she was writing a column on antiquing for a local English language newspaper. “I realized then that I didn’t know much, so I started studying diligently,” she says.
Her passion for Asian art and antiques took over, and in 1970, she sold her modeling agency and started her next career. By 1976, Salmon had published her first book, “Japanese Antiques” and became a partner in The Gallery, a Tokyo antique shop. It was during this time that she became especially drawn to Japanese art created in the first half of the 20th century.
More than 25 years later, her formidable Taisho collection was partly donated and partly sold to the Honolulu Academy of Art.
She says she would advise Trinity alumni and students to pursue their dreams. “My Trinity background gave me the idea – and the courage – that if you see something that needs help, you should help.”
Today, Salmon is a private dealer and consultant, advising museums and individual clients from her home base in Hilo, Hawaii. She continues to collect art from the Taishō period because of its scarcity, and she travels regularly to Japan