Budi Tek (1957–2022) – Artforum International
Contemporary art collector and philanthropist Budjiardo “Budi” Tek, the influential founder of Shanghai’s Yuz Museum who elevated the presence of Chinese and Asian art on the world stage, died March 18 in Hong Kong at the age of sixty-five after a six-year career battle with pancreatic cancer. Since he began collecting in 2004, Tek has consistently drawn attention not only to art made in China during the politically unstable decade of 1985-1995, which particularly appealed to him, but also to the work young emerging contemporary Chinese artists. Tek was also instrumental in bringing international contemporary art to China, much of it by Western artists, such as the Italian sculptor Maurizo Cattelan, whose 2000 Untitled (Tree of Life) occupies the center of Yuz Museum Shanghai, influenced by Chinese art.
Born in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia to Chinese parents, Tek grew up in Singapore, before making his fortune as president and director of the Indonesian poultry company Sierad Produce, which all sold from chicken feed to live birds to processed meat. Despite his success, he says JUMP in 2013, he noted that in Indonesia in the second half of the last century, Chinese immigrants and their descendants were considered inferior. Seeking to refute the idea that the Chinese were uncultured, in 2006 Tek established the private Yuz Museum in Jakarta (the institution has since closed). Eight years later, he established the much larger Yuz Museum Shanghai, repurposing and abandoning the aircraft hangar in the West Bund district, which had yet to become the bustling arts center it is today. . Adept at what he calls “mega works of art,” massive sculptures and notoriously difficult-to-show installations, Tek quickly put the 9,000 square foot space to work with these works, contained in his collection of 1,500 pieces. Among those he exhibited were Xu Bing’s tiger skin made from 600,000 cigarettes, from the artist 2004 Tobacco Project; 2009 by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu Freedom, a colossal mechanical installation featuring a wildly whipping rubber hose; and the installation of Adel Abdessemed in 2008 Like mother, like son, featuring three wingless jet planes braided together. Exhibitions held by Yuz Museum Shanghai include those featuring emerging multimedia artists Chen Ke and Ni Youyu as well as major exhibitions by Western artists such as Alberto Giacometti, KAWS and Andy Warhol. The institution has twice presented the immersive program of Random International rain room, which Tek particularly liked; when he died, a historic exhibition of works by Yoshitomo Nara, organized in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Museums of Qatar, had just opened.
Tek, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the inauguration of the Yuz Museum Shanghai, had long sought to cement his legacy by taking the institution public, a move that reflected what many characterized as his typically generous nature. The Yuz Museum in 2018 entered into a partnership with LACMA through which the two institutions shared artworks and partnered in curatorial efforts; Museums in Qatar entered this alliance in 2019. Although the pandemic, tighter restrictions in China, and Tek diseases have significantly slowed progress towards the publication of the Yuz Museum, LACMA last year organized the highly regarded “Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Foundation,” featuring a number of works from Tek’s personal collection. On March 7, it was announced that Tek had donated seven works from the exhibition at LACMA, including paintings by Zhou Tiehai and Yu Youhan, an installation by Qiu Anxiong and the 2011 installation by Ai Weiwei. Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads.
A devout Christian, Tek described the collection as “an exercise in endurance; it is the faith, the hope and the love of an artistic life. In addition to his work with the Yuz Museums, he was an Asia-Pacific Fellow and Collecting Fellow of Tate Britain. Tek was crowned an Officer of France’s Legion of Honor in 2017. “My life is going to end – everyone’s life is ending – but works of art will last much longer than us, because they recorded history,” he said. Artnet News in 2019. “It’s very special for me to be the guardian of this story.”