Ullens Center CEO Jumps Ship in Reshuffling of China’s Contemporary Art World

May Xue's departure from the private museum comes amid a nearly year-long search for a new buyer.

Ullens Center CEO Mary Xue (courtesy of UCCA)

Big changes keep coming for Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), one of China’s most respected private museums. The center’s CEO, May Xue, plans to step down from her post on Thursday, April 20.

May’s departure comes as the museum continues its search for a new buyer. UCCA’s founders, the Belgian collector Guy Ullens and his wife Myriam, announced in June that they plan to sell the 10-year-old institution, along with their extensive collection of Chinese art.

According to a source, May plans to join another high-profile, privately-funded art initiative in China: the K11 Art Foundation. The source says she will take responsibility for the foundation’s forthcoming Beijing space, its third in China (after Hong Kong and Shanghai). The Beijing project is reportedly located in Xuanwu district, close to the new K11 art mall, which will open in 2019.

Adrian Cheng—one of the world’s youngest billionaires and the executive vice-chairman of the real estate company New World Development—founded the K11 Art Foundation in 2010. Since then, the foundation has focused its efforts on promoting emerging artists from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It operates the K11 Art Village in Wuhan for emerging Chinese artists and the even more popular K11 Art Museum in Shanghai. In an interview last year, Cheng said that K11’s Beijing location—called K11 kunsthalle—will provide “monumental exhibition spaces for art with no membership fee.”


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

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

May joined UCCA in 2008 as director of UCCASTORE, the center’s retail arm, and went on to assume leadership of the entire institution in 2011. In a joint statement last week, Guy and Myriam Ullens saluted her “for her nine years of incredible service and leadership at the Ullens Center.” They say that “during her tenure, UCCA has thrived, evolving into a leading art institution with a solid reputation in China and around the world… UCCA can look forward to another successful chapter under the leadership of Director Philip Tinari, COO Ada Zhang, and Deputy Director You Yang.” 

In a statement on WeChat, May said: “We have gone on a beautiful art journey together as the Chinese contemporary art scene develops and extends its influence to the world. We have built UCCA as the most internationally renowned and influential institution in terms of Chinese contemporary art and culture.”

Additional reporting and translation by Liu Ye and Wenjia Sheng

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics