Guy and Myriam Ullens Seek New Owner for UCCA

Guy has been collecting Chinese art since he met Ai Weiwei.

Guy and Myriam Ullens. Photo Luc Castel, courtesy Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.
Guy and Myriam Ullens. Photo Luc Castel, courtesy Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing.

Belgian billionaire Guy Ullens, known for a multimillion-dollar collection of Chinese art, is preparing to sell off his holdings. He’s also seeking a buyer for the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing. He’ll offer artworks later this year, both at auction and via private sales, according to a statement sent to artnet News.

“I have been a patron of the arts in China for over 30 years and have found this a hugely interesting and fascinating experience,” says Ullens in the statement. “I’m now in my 80s and need to look at how to hand over the stewardship of the UCCA and my art collection to younger patrons of the arts.” He pledges to continue to support the UCCA until it can find a new patron.

The Wall Street Journal estimated in 2013 that Ullens’s collection numbered over 1,000 works. When he sold Zeng Fanzhi’s painting The Last Supper at Sotheby’s Hong Kong that year, it set a record for a work of contemporary Asian art at $23.3 million.

Ullens, born in San Francisco in 1935, oversaw family holdings of beet sugar interests as well as Weight Watchers International. Since the 1980s, when he was doing business in China, he has collected works by artists including Chen Zhen, Gu Wenda, Huang Yong Ping, Wang Du, Wang Guangyi, and Zhang Xiaogang.

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Opened in 2007, the UCCA encompasses more than 80,000 square feet spread over three 1950s factory buildings. The institution has seen more than 4,000,000 visitors and mounted more than 100 exhibitions, according to its website. Among its high-profile exhibitions have been “Art Post-Internet” (2014), “Xu Zhen: a MadeIn Company Production” (2014), and “ON | OFF: China’s Young Artists in Concept and Practice” (2013).

The Ullens has also shown major Western artists including Olafur Eliasson, Sterling Ruby, Tino Sehgal, and Taryn Simon.


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