Thursday, July 17, 2008
The Future of Art
Guy and Myriam Ullens are considered the first buyers of Chinese contemporary art.
In the early 80s the Belgian couple began buying pieces when there wasn't even an art market in China.
They were first intrigued by the work when they were in Hong Kong, but quickly realized they had to go to Beijing to meet the artists and see what was there.
And since then they have amassed a collection of over 1,500 pieces, ranging from oil paintings and photographs, to video and installations.
Last year they bought a giant space in the 798 Art District and turned it into the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA).
And today they unveiled their latest exhibition, Our Future: The Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection.
The show is a combination of old and new acquisitions, as well as site-specific commissions.
And the end result is an interesting mix.
The main exhibition space is very large, with high ceilings. And art work is literally placed everywhere you look without much rhyme or reason.
One of the curators explained the gallery was like a home, and they didn't want to program what people should see or should group together. It was up to the viewers themselves to engage with the works and find their own relationships between the art as well as with themselves.
They have collected everything from Fang Lijun to Ai Weiwei and Qiu Zhijie.
Guy admitted only up until recently were they just buying works without the help of a curator. But it seems like the couple not only has good taste and dares to take chances, but also encourages young artists.
He says the next step now is to nurture the next generation of artists, joking the discussions usually revolve around wine and food.
Ullens himself is a very personable, humble and very dynamic.
They even sponsored an artist to do performance art -- emerge from a silver gray spaceship -- hanging from hooks with his hands laced with strings that were attached to live turtles on the floor.
He just hung there, covered in blue spray paint, and didn't move much.
Don't know if that's supposed to be the future of art, but it's definitely out of the ordinary.