Budiardjo “Budi” Tek, the famous Indonesian-Chinese art collector who founded Shanghai’s Yuz Museum, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 65 and had been diagnosed with the disease six years ago.
“As one of Asia’s finest collectors, Mr. Tek collects but never hesitates to share,” his family wrote in a statement confirming his death on March 18. “He spends his life constantly cultivating talents.”
Tek made his fortune running the vertically integrated poultry business PT Sierad Produce Tbk and began buying art in 2004. Over the next few years, he managed to assemble a collection of more than 1 500 pieces, with a focus on contemporary Chinese art from the politically turbulent 1980s and 1990s.
Then, in 2014, he founded the Yuz Museum in a 9,000 square foot former aircraft hangar in Shanghai’s West Bund. (The name comes from the possessive of its Chinese name, Yu Deyao.) Over the years, the museum has hosted blockbusters from international artists such as KAWS, Alberto Giacometti and Andy Warhol; surveys of Chinese art; and highlights audience favorites like Random International’s rain room.
Everything changed the year after Tek’s museum opened, when he received a devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Initially advised that he might not last a year, he managed to survive longer than many doctors expected and soon set about planning the future of his collection.
In 2018, Tek announced plans for a unique partnership with the Yuz Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The plan was to start a foundation that would oversee its holdings and allow for its rotating display at both museums. The following year, the partnership expanded to include museums in Qatar.
A selection of 20 works from its collections by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing and Qiu Anxiong were featured at the Los Angeles institution last year in “Legacies of Exchange,” the first fruits of the collaboration.
“Budi Tek has been a great inspiration to me and LACMA, encouraging us to connect East and West, Los Angeles and Shanghai, with contemporary art,” LACMA director Michael Govan told Artnet News. . “By establishing a foundation and its pioneering Yuz Museum in Shanghai’s West Bund, Budi has helped boost the growth of museums in Shanghai, which is now a true international center for contemporary art. Personally, for me, Budi has been a great inspiration in his commitment to art and his many creative ideas, especially as he bravely faced his advanced illness for many years.
Ultimately, the collaboration with LACMA encountered obstacles due not only to the pandemic and Tek’s declining health, but also to strained relations between China and the United States, as well as Chinese law, which prevented Tek from turning the Yuz Museum into a public institution as he had considered.
Although Govan said it was “impossible to establish the joint foundation between LACMA and Yuz in China as we had planned”, Tek donated several of the “Legacies” loans to LACMA. “Ai Weiwei Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads… will remain at LACMA and is currently relocated outdoors to the center of the LACMA campus.
Tek’s death comes less than two weeks after the opening of Yuz Museum’s highly anticipated Yoshitomo Nara show, another collaboration with LACMA and Qatar’s museums.
“Budi was a true patron and friend to artists,” said Marc Glimcher, president and CEO of Pace Gallery, which represents Nara. ART news. “He helped make Shanghai a global art center by creating the Yuz Museum, a true model of the 21st century, where one individual’s patronage and involvement benefits the whole city.”
Tek’s daughter, Justine Alexandria, will remain CEO of the Yuz Museum and director of the Yuz Foundation, according to the art diary.
In a 2019 interview, Tek explained to Artnet News his vision for the future of his art and how it fits into his broader understanding of his legacy. “In China, there is a ‘big me’ and a ‘small me’. So it’s a “little me” speaking now; to become the ‘bigger self’, you have to sacrifice yourself to contribute to the bigger ‘me’, which is society – the world,” Tek said.
“I’m also a Christian, so I believe in the Bible, and it says giving is more blessed than receiving. Maybe because of that, I experienced a miracle. All the doctors said, “You’re only six months to a year old,” and I’m getting better every day. So if you were me, you would see why I want to give. I don’t know how long I will live, but I intend to live longer.
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