Courtesy of The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Ullens Center of Beijing
Courtesy of The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

A munitions factory turned museum ushers in China’s latest cultural revolution.

Sharon Leece
March 27, 2009

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.


798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District; 86-10/6438-6675;

" '85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art"

Through February 17, 2008.

"Stray Alchemists"

New and commissioned works—ranging from drawings to performance art—by Chinese and international artists. Opens March 8.

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