The much-anticipated opening last November of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing's Dashanzi Art District marks the beginning of a new era in China. It arrives at a time when the work of a generation of artists including Zhang Huan, Cai Guoqiang, and Zhang Xiaogang commands record prices. Yet the UCCA, founded by retired Belgian businessman Guy Ullens and his wife Myriam, is a nonprofit operation with an emphasis on exhibitions and cultural programming, including film and music.
With a collection of more than 1,500 works, the center represents the largest museum devoted to Chinese contemporary art by both established and emerging artists. Housed in an 86,000-square-foot building, the vast space is set among galleries and artists' studios in a former industrial complex known as Factory 798.
Designed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Shanghai-based Qingyun Ma, the UCCA—with its distinctive exterior chimney—features an automated system that uses GPS technology to maximize natural light and has two main naves for painting, sculpture, and video; an auditorium; a museum shop and restaurant. As never before, the UCCA makes room for new perspectives on Chinese art.