To Dream, to Collect

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The 26 year old Chinese art collector, “artrepreneur” and museums (yes, in the plural) founder Michael Xufu Huang is the youngest member of the New Museum’s board of directors. Confident, ultra-fabulous, a workaholic with an excellent taste and immense curiosity, Huang started Beijing’s Millenial X Museum (it opened 30th May) which meets his unusual and enormous “X” factor.

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A rendering of the X Museum in Beijing. Courtesy of the X Museum.

 

Born in Chongqing, in southwest China, in 1994, Huang divides his time between New York and Beijing. Son of financial-pharmaceutical industry parents who has never developed a real interest in the art world, Michael Xufu Huang approached contemporary art while attending a boarding school in London. His epiphany came in Tate St. Ives, England, from one exhibition in particular, a show of seascapes and beach scenes by Alex Katz “Give Me Tomorrow”. Huang’s first acquisition - before developing his current focus on emerging artists - was a lithograph by American abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler, bought for less than $5,000. 

In 2013, he moved to Philadelphia to study art history at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2014, when just 20, he co-founded a non-profit private Contemporary Art Museum in the 798 Art District of Beijing, M WOODS, which has filled a new role in the city with rigorous educational programs for its audience, gallery talks and film series, free opening days for children and students. Last year, Michael Xufu Huang resigned his role and removed his collection from M WOODS, after becoming one of the most acclaimed art museums in China, presenting the first institutional solo exhibitions by artists such as David Hockney and Paul McCarthy. As a Millennial, Huang aspires to create a space more focused on youth culture and new talents. 

 

Alex Katz, Black Hat (Bettina), 2010, © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

Huang’s expansive taste (not to mention his fashion sense), knowledge of the newest names in contemporary art and constant travel - visiting not only prestigious art fairs like the Armory Show, Art Basel but also adventurous galleries like JTT in New York, Société in Berlin, and Arcadia Missa in London - allow him to participate in international panels and professional art events. “The internet and technology are my passion; I think that every generation has something that is prominent. Nowadays, everything is technology and the internet.”

 

Nicolas Party, Trees, 2019, Work on Paper, Soft pastel on linen 190.5 x 164.8 x 2.5 (cm), 75.0 x 64.9 x 1.0 (inch).
© Nicolas Party Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Thomas Barratt.

 

Obsessed by Post-Internet Art - art dealing with tech, digital, industrial materials - because it’s something he and his generation (they studied abroad, speak good English and have a global vision) grew up with, Huang collected approximately 150 works by mainly young post-internet artists. Amalia Ulman, Yuji Agematsu, Yan Xing, Song Ta, Anna-Sophie Berger, Diane Simpson, Glen Fogel, but also popular figurative painters like Nicolas Party, Julie Curtiss, Alex Gardner and a holographic work by James Turrell. Huang’s dreams materialized with the X Museum whose mantra is “Form the New Norm” in China, avoiding Western imported blockbusters. The whole idea is, on the one hand, to cultivate and nurture Chinese new talents, help them build their career and gain them more international attention, filling the Chinese institutional vacuum. On the other hand, build a new generation of art lovers who can shape Chinese society and make art a part of their lives. 

Founded by Michael Xufu Huang and Theresa Tse (Chairman/Executive Director at Sino Biopharmaceutical) who combined their private collections, X Museum is a two-storey building, 2,400 sq. m exhibition space, in the city’s Chaoyang District orchestrated by the architect and artist Pete Jiadong Qiang. Huang’s opening exhibition “How Do We Begin?” (30 May-13 September), which forms the first edition of a contemporary art triennial, consists of 33 artists who espouse the millennial zeitgeist - a mix of diverse gender and sexual identities - and it is curated by London Royal College of Art graduate Poppy Dongxu Wu. For this multidisciplinary, hyper contemporary art museum, Huang is overseeing programming, development, promotion and upcoming digital curatorial projects. X stands for young energy. X is two lines crossing, which could be intended as conversations between countries, between generations, between mediums, between disciplines, between chromosomes: “when X multiplies it becomes a web and hence the internet”.

Cover image: Michael Xufu Huang. Photo courtesy Michael Xufu Huang.

Written by Petra Chiodi 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.
 

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