Chinese Contemporary Art Collector Guy Ullens Draws Fire for Allegedly Profit-Seeking Moves

The future of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art remains uncertain.

Guy Ullens (R) and his wife Myriam (L) on January 30, 2008. Courtesy of TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images.

Major Chinese contemporary art collector Guy Ullens has come under fire from patrons of the Beijing-based Ullens Center for Contemporary Art for seeking profit from the sale of his art center, according to an article in the South China Morning Post.

This past June, Ullens announced he was ready to give up the reins on the nine-year-old institution. “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,” the SCMP reported in July. However, no potential buyers have been named, and the future is unclear.

The story cites an unidentified “long-time patron” who says that “during a board meeting hours before the dinner, Ullens was attacked for wanting to make money out of a non-profit space long sustained by their generosity.” Sources told artnet News other trustees are considering withdrawing their support of the center in the coming calendar year.

Some insiders said the unrest threatened to impact the current Zeng Fanzhi show (“Parcours“) that opened September 19 and continues through November 19, due to concerns from sponsors about a potential sale of the center.

 

Pedestrians walk past the construction site of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), 19 June 2007 in Beijing, Courtesy of FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images.

Pedestrians walk past the construction site of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), 19 June 2007 in Beijing, Courtesy of FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images.

The SCMP article says May Xue, chief executive of the UCCA, and Philip Tinari, director, remain silent. artnet reached out the Ullens Center for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Ullens has been selling off works from his massive contemporary Chinese art collection for years. At Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale this month, he sold over 30 pieces from his collection to raise nearly $2 million for the center. Prices ranged from roughly $600 for photos that sold under estimate, to $1.3 million for a work by Zhang Xiaogang.

The UCCA is currently hosting a show of internationally-acclaimed artist Zeng Fanzhi, “Parcours,” which is on view until November 19, 2016. It is the artist’s first institutional solo show in the capital.


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