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Art Collector Pressures Chinese Government to Make Private Museum Public

Chinese art collector Budi Tek, who last month was awarded the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor for his efforts in strengthening cultural ties between France and China, is pressuring the Chinese government to turn his private art institution, the Yuz Museum, into a public entity, writes the Art Newspaper’s Lisa Movius. Tek was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about eighteen months ago. “I am still full of ambition. That’s what’s keeping me alive,” he said.

The museum, located in Shanghai, is a registered nonprofit run by a private foundation in Hong Kong. Tek will need to create a registered foundation in mainland China in order for the museum to become public. Doing this would allow him to “invite trustee members to join the board, like foundations in the United States,” said Tek––a system that is not very common in China.

The country draws a line between private museums controlled by companies (state or private) or individuals (foreign or Chinese) and public museums under its purview. The law offers little in regards to private museums succeeding their founders. Tek wants to take his institution out of his personal estate, which will be distributed to his family, and transfer legal ownership of the Yuz to a foundation with a board of trustees. The museum’s landlords—the West Bund Group, a real-estate company that is turning Shanghai’s waterfront area into a cultural district—back Tek’s proposal. “This is also in [the government’s] interest, to attract more and more museums to the West Bund Cultural Corridor,” said Tek.

Tek is not sure how long the process will take—he thinks it could be months, or even years. But he is wary of going public under China’s current system, where NGOs and foundations are auxiliaries of the state-controlled China Charities Foundation. “We are waiting for an infrastructure that can ensure the museum belongs to society, not the government,” he said.