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Oct 09 2017

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Finds New Owners

by HG Masters

Exterior view of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Image source: wikimedia.org.

A consortium of Chinese investors has bought the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), securing a new future for the bedrock institution located in Beijing’s 798 Art District. The news comes after a year of speculation about UCCA’s future after its Belgian owner Guy Ullens announced in late June 2016 that he was putting the art space up for sale.

The buyers are led by private equity firm Lunar Capital, whose partner Jerry Mao has been a patron of UCCA in the past. UCCA will be reestablished as a nonprofit foundation that will allow it to secure more outside funding; under the Ullens’ ownership the company and its own UCCA brand companies—including a retail brand and children’s education serves—underwrote a large majority of the company’s annual 40 million yuan (USD 6 million) operating costs. Under the new structure, those companies will still operate on a for-profit basis.

Current director Phil Tinari will remain in his position. The UCCA does not own its building in the 798 Arts District. However, the owners of the Sevenstar Group that manages the 798 Arts District have reportedly offered a UCCA a longterm lease. UCCA does not have a collection either, though it stages its own exhibitions and it has an agreement with the Ullens Collection to show its works. However, the Ullens family has been selling off works from the collection at auctions over the past few years, including another 54 works at Poly Auction in early June 2016.

UCCA opened in 2007 and reported to have attracted more than four million visitors in its first nine years. Its exhibition program has included monographic exhibitions of Chinese and international artists, as well as historical group shows and surveys of emerging art.

UCCA will close for renovations at the end of the year and reopen in mid-2018 with a major showcase of the seminal figure Xu Bing.

HG Masters is editor at large of ArtAsiaPacific.

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