The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is in talks to collaborate with the Yuz Museum, a private museum in the West Bund area of Shanghai founded in 2014 by billionaire Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek, ARTnews has learned from several independent sources.
A representative for the Yuz Museum confirmed that the two institutions are planning to work together, saying in an email, “For the last several years, the Yuz Museum and LACMA have been in discussion to share our collections and programs, which would bolster our offerings both in Shanghai and in Los Angeles. Though we are still working out the details, we hope to launch collaboratively created programs next year, with more to follow.”
That rep noted that the “Yuz Museum will be always independent” and that it collaborates with many other museums on exhibitions and educational efforts, a point echoed by a spokesperson for LACMA, who also confirmed the talks, and said they were likely among others the Yuz Museum has been having.
The development is significant because Tek, a poultry magnate, philanthropist, and prodigious contemporary art collector who has long figured on the annual ARTnews “Top 200 Collectors” list, has been fighting pancreatic cancer for the past two years, and has been looking into options for the future of his museum. Last April, he told the South China Morning Post of plans to turn the Yuz Museum into a nonprofit public institution run by a board of trustees. (The Yuz is technically a nonprofit owned by Tek’s company; the collector is aiming for independent nonprofit status.)
The Post reported, “He wants to convince the government to allow the foundation to be owned by an NGO, so that the museum can be governed by a board of trustees, like many Western museums” that began as private museums started by a single owner.
At that time, the Post reported, the Yuz Museum was also looking for a second site in China for its expanding collection. (Tek opened his first Yuz Museum in Jakarta in 2006. It closed in 2014 so that the collector could focus on his efforts in Shanghai. He has also discussed opening a sculpture park in Bali.)
In September, the Art Newspaper reported on Tek’s continuing appeals to the Chinese government to change the rules around private museums. Tek told the paper he wanted to “invite trustee members to join the board, like foundations in the United States. But that system is not yet widely available [in China].”
As the Art Newspaper explained, “China makes a clear distinction between public museums that operate under the auspices of the state and private museums run by individuals (Chinese or foreign), or companies (whether state or private enterprises). The law makes little provision for private museums to succeed their founders. . . . Tek wants to separate the Yuz from his personal estate that will pass to his large family and hopes to transfer legal ownership of the museum to a foundation with a board of trustees.”
That story also reported that the state-controlled West Bund Group, which is overseeing the development of a cultural corridor in the area, has been supportive of Tek in his endeavors to change his museum’s model.
The involvement of museums from the West in Shanghai is not unprecedented. Last year, Paris’s Centre Pompidou announced that it will open an outpost designed by David Chipperfield in the West Bund area in 2019.
There are over 1,000 private museums in China. Recently, another private museum in China went through a transition from its founder. In 2016, the Belgian collecting couple Guy and Miriam Ullens announced that they would sell the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, the private museum they founded in Beijing in 2007. This past October, Ullens found a buyer in a set of Chinese investors led by the education corporation Future Edutainment and Chinese advertising billionaire Jason Jiang. Ullens it is now a nonprofit run by its longtime director, Philip Tinari, and is being registered as a foundation.
Budi Tek began collecting contemporary art in 2004 and now owns more than 1,500 artworks, including large-scale pieces by Xu Bing (a tiger pelt made from 600,000 cigarettes) and Sun Yuan and Peng Yu (a high-pressure fire hose that sprays water). The museum’s exhibitions have ranged from current Chinese work to canonical Western modern art, and in 2016 it hosted a major retrospective of Alberto Giacometti.
Like LACMA, the Yuz Museum owns an edition of the Rain Room, an installation created in 2012 by the art collective Random International. The Rain Room was shown at MoMA in May 2013 as part of the exhibition “EXPO 1: New York,” where it generated long lines with only ten people allowed to enter at a time. LACMA showed it from November 2015 to January 2017, attracting 190,000 visitors. In the installation, water, seemingly by magic, falls everywhere except on visitors. The piece exists in an edition of six.
According to its website, the Yuz Museum’s “underlying principles” are: “Collect contemporary, promote the art museum movement, take an active role in social welfare.” Its mission: “The Yuz Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2007 to promote contemporary art and artists, and contribute to various art initiatives. The founder, Mr. Budi Tek, hopes to provide a platform for the communication and promotion of Asian and Western Contemporary art and artists.”