Budi Tek, one of Asia's leading art collectors, has died aged 65

Budi Tek, one of Asia’s leading art collectors, has died aged 65

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Chinese Indonesian art collector Budi Tek, who was celebrated for forging cultural connections between China and the West, has died in Hong Kong aged 65.
The entrepreneur and philanthropist passed away on Friday following “six years of strenuous battle” with pancreatic cancer, according to a statement from Shanghai’s Yuz Museum, which he founded in 2014.

The statement, posted to social media in English and Chinese on Sunday, said that Tek had died “surrounded by his beloved family” having spent his life “cultivating talents” and engaging the public through his “vast and historic collection.”

Born Budiardjo Tek in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1957, the entrepreneur began collecting in his 40s after he “discovered art’s ability to take him to new, unknown worlds,” according to his museum’s website. Using wealth from a successful career in the poultry trade, he initially focused on contemporary Chinese art from the 1980s and ’90s — a period that had seen China’s avant-garde movement flourish following the death of leader Mao Zedong, before it was forced to grapple with growing restrictions in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Budi Tek leads French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius around the Yuz Museum in Shanghai in 2014. Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Tek founded the since-closed Yuz Museum in Jakarta in 2006, before establishing the non-profit Yuz Foundation to manage his growing collection, which was widely was reportedly to be in excess of 1,500 Chinese contemporary works. But it was the opening of his museum’s Shanghai outpost in 2014 that established Tek as a major industry figure.

Built into an old hangar at the city’s defunct Longhua Airport, the private gallery gave a platform to the many established and emerging Chinese artists in his collection. But it also offered local visitors a chance to see work by Western greats like Andy Warhol and Alberto Giacometti, as well as contemporary names like Maurizio Cattelan and Adel Abdessemed.

Measuring 9,000 square meters (97,000 square feet), the museum was able to accommodate Tek’s predilection for large-scale installation art. A tiger-skin pelt made from over 600,000 cigarettes — part of Chinese artist Xu Bing’s “Tobacco Project” — was one of many such artworks to have found their way from his collection to the museum floor.

Tek also committed himself to developing international understanding of — and appreciation for — Asian art, which is still heavily dependent on private philanthropy. He helped the UK’s Tate gallery group acquire work from the region and established a partnership between Yuz Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that saw the two institutions sharing artworks and co-curating exhibitions (the most recent of which, a major survey of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s work, opened in Shanghai just weeks before Tek’s death).

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In 2017, Tek was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of merit, for his work advancing cultural exchange.
Diagnosed with cancer in 2015, the collector often said that the disease had sharpened his focus. “It has changed my horizon of being a human being,” he said at an arts event in Hong Kong in 2017, according to the South China Morning Post. “Thank God I am still breathing and living, and I am thankful that I am still a useful person. I am transferring the brave-ness (required to) face life and death into positive energy.”
Tek’s death prompted an outpouring of tributes from around the art world, with American artist KAWS among those honoring the late collector. Posting to Instagram, Asia chairman of Phillips auction house, Jonathan Crockett, wrote: “Your eye for collecting, the legacy you leave behind, your business acumen and the manner in which you battled cancer is an inspiration to us all.”
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN) in Jakarta meanwhile described him as a “visionary collector, philanthropist and dear friend of the museum” whose “passion and leadership inspired many, both here in Indonesia and around the world.”

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