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


Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Indonesian Chinese art collector Budi Tek, famous for forging cultural ties between China and the West, has died in Hong Kong at the age of 65.
The entrepreneur and philanthropist died on Friday after a “six year fierce battle” with pancreatic cancer, according to a declaration of the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, which he founded in 2014.

The statement, posted to social media in English and Chinese on Sunday, said Tek passed away “surrounded by his beloved family” after spending his life “cultivating talent” and engaging the public through his “extensive and historical collection”.

Born Budiardjo Tek in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1957, the entrepreneur began collecting in his 40s after “discovering the ability of art to take him to new, unknown worlds”, according to his museum‘s website. . Using the wealth of a successful career in the poultry trade, he initially focused on contemporary Chinese art of the 1980s and 1990s – a period which had seen the Chinese avant-garde movement flourish after the death of leader Mao Zedong, before he was forced to grapple with increasing restrictions following 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 now-closed Yuz Museum in Jakarta in 2006 before establishing the non-profit Yuz Foundation to manage its growing collection, which is believed to have well exceeded 1,500 contemporary Chinese works. But it was the opening of its museum outpost in Shanghai in 2014 that made Tek a major figure in the industry.

Built in a former hangar at the former Longhua Airport, the private gallery provided a platform for the many established and emerging Chinese artists in its collection. But it also offered local visitors the chance to see works by big Western names 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 made from more than 600,000 cigarettes – part of Chinese artist Xu Bing’s ‘Project Tobacco’ – was one of many works of art to find their way from his collection to the floor of the Museum.

Tek is also committed to developing an international understanding and appreciation of Asian art, which still relies heavily on private philanthropy. He helped the British gallery group Tate acquire works from the area and established a partnership between the Yuz Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that saw the two institutions share artwork and co -organize exhibitions (including the most recent, a major survey of the work of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, opened in Shanghai a few weeks before Tek’s death).

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In 2017, Tek was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor, the highest French distinction, for his work in favor of cultural exchanges.
Diagnosed with cancer in 2015, the collector has often said the disease has sharpened his concentration. “It changed my horizon of being human,” he said at an art event in Hong Kong in 2017. according to at the South China Morning Post. “Thank God I’m still breathing and living, and I’m grateful to still be a helpful person. I transfer the courage (needed to) face life and death into positive energy.”
Tek’s death sparked an outpouring of tributes from the art world, with American artist KAWS among those who paid tribute to the late collector. Posting on Instagram, the Asian president of the Phillips auction house, Jonathan Crockett, wrote“Your eye for collecting, the legacy you leave behind, your business acumen and the way you fought cancer are an inspiration to us all.”
The Nusantara Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MACAN) in Jakarta meanwhile described him as a “visionary collector, philanthropist and dear friend of the museum” whose “passion and leadership has inspired many here in Indonesia. And in the world”.


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