When the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and ARTnews Top 200 collector Budi Tek’s Yuz Museum in Shanghai established a Hong Kong–based joint foundation, a historic arrangement seemed to be in the offing. Then, when the Qatar Museums in Doha agreed to develop programming with the two museums as part of it all, the ambitions of the partnership only grew. Questions soon arose, however: Could planned exhibitions in China potentially fall victim to censorship?
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Tek addressed those censorship concerns, effectively waving them off and reaffirming that the deal with LACMA and the Qatar Museums would remain strong in the face of political adversity.
“We have a strong cultural authority here and they will review our programs,” he told the Post, referring to officials in China. “We have a good relationship with them and we make sure the shows will be in the interest of the public rather than damaging public interest.”
In September, the New York Times published Chinese government documents revealing a mass indoctrination campaign designed to purge the nation’s ethnic Uighur minority of their devotion to Islam. Since the program’s launch around 2014, hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims have been placed in detention in western Xinjiang. The government has denied all reports of human-rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Tek is currently battling pancreatic cancer, and he plans eventually to donate his holdings to the partnership set up by LACMA, the Yuz Museum, and the Qatar Museums. He and representatives for the partnered institutions have largely shied away from discussing politics. When asked about censorship previously, Tek has maintained that authorities review shows “not because of religion, or which country [the art] is coming from,” but to protect viewers in Shanghai from aspects of cultures other than their own that could potentially offend.