Myriam Ullens, pioneering collector of Chinese contemporary art, 1952-2023

Myriam Ullens. ©️ Wikicommons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Myriam Ullens, a major collector and patron of Chinese contemporary art, was shot dead on Wednesday outside her home in Belgium. The gunman is believed to be her stepson Nicolas Ullens: according to ARTnews, Nicolas turned himself in on Thursday morning and is now under investigation for the murder. The attack, it is reported, may have been caused by a long-existing dispute over issues of inheritance between the baroness and Nicolas.

Born in 1952 in Cologne, Myriam established several enterprises before devoting her time to non-profit organisations. In 1999, Myriam married Belgian businessman and collector Guy. The couple collected classical Chinese scroll paintings before being particularly taken by rising Chinese contemporary artists, including Huang Yong Ping, Wang Jianwei, Fang Lijun and Xu Zhen. By 2007, they had developed a collection of over 2,000 works and founded the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, considered then the first contemporary art museum in China. In 2017, the museum was sold to a group of Chinese investors, and is now known as the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art – with venues in Beidaihe and Shanghai.

‘The vision and passion of Myriam Ullens – her love for art, belief in cultural exchange, and commitment to helping others – are at the core of UCCA’s history and values. We are shocked and saddened by her death, and will remember her strength, style, creativity, and generosity as we carry forward the work of the institution that she and Guy so generously founded and nurtured through its first decade’, UCCA Director Philip Tinari said in a statement.

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