Art Market

The Millennial Collectors behind Beijing’s Newest Art Museum

Benjamin Sutton
Nov 6, 2019 5:23PM

Portrait of Michael Xufu Huang. Courtesy Michael Xufu Huang.

Portrait of Theresa Tse. Courtesy of Theresa Tse.

There are plenty of private museums in China, but few have been spearheaded by collectors in their mid-twenties. The fashion-forward collector Michael Xufu Huang announced in September that he was resigning from M WOODS, the Beijing museum he co-founded when he was still in his sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania. After five years helping to turn that museum into a major international destination, he decided it was time for a new challenge. Huang is partnering with another influential Chinese millennial and UPenn grad, businesswoman Theresa Tse, to create the new institution, dubbed X Museum.

“We have very complementary roles, as I focus on the artistic and management side, while she leads the development and philanthropy effort of the museum,” Huang said of his partnership with Tse. “We want to make a platform that cultivates new talent and use our resources to do more charity work on spreading art education to all parts of China.”

Rendering of the X Museum in Beijing. © TEMP Studio.


X Museum is slated to open during Gallery Weekend Beijing in March 2020 in the city’s Chaoyang District, not far from another major private institution, the Red Brick Art Museum. X Museum will be housed in a two-story building being renovated and transformed by Beijing-based architecture studio TEMP. The museum will have nearly 26,000 square feet of space spread across 10 galleries. Renderings show a dramatic metal “X” projecting over the building’s main entrance, and a contemplative interior courtyard.

Amalia Ulman Excellences & Perfections (Instagram update, 8th July, 2014), (#itsjustdifferent) 2015. Courtesy of the artist and X Museum Beijing.

The new museum’s collection counts some 300 works. Huang, a regular fixture at major fairs and other art world events, has acquired market-tested talents and emerging conceptual artists, collecting a mix of Western and Chinese artists. In addition to paintings by Nicolas Party, Julie Curtiss, Alex Gardner, Wang Xiaoqu, and Lucas Arruda, his collection includes sculptural and installation works by Jesse Darling, Max Hooper Schneider, and Pamela Rosenkranz, as well as pieces from Amalia Ulman’s viral Instagram-based performance art project Excellences & Perfections (2014). For Huang, starting X Museum will give him greater creative control—which he plans to use to foster an ambitiously eclectic program.

“We will be very multidisciplinary, showing not only artists, but also architects, scientists, engineers, musicians, and designers,” he said.

Wang Xiaoqu 王晓曲, The Greeting Pine (“过河”), 2018. Courtesy of the artist and X Museum Beijing.

This will be Tse’s first foray into building an art organization, but she has extensive experience managing large organizations—she runs one of China’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Last year, at age 26, she was ranked by Forbes as the 25th most successful businesswoman in China. Her collecting tastes echo Huang’s; she owns works by Hans Hartung, Liu Ye, Issy Wood, Chen Wei, Party, and others. She has long been passionate about the arts, and was eager to start a museum.

“Ever since college, Theresa and I had very similar understanding in art, so when I decided to find my own path and build a new museum I reached out to her,” Huang recalled. “We both care a lot about helping people of our generation to gain more opportunities, as well as a global vision that increases more cross-continent communications through art.”

Jesse Darling, March of the Valedictorians, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and X Museum Beijing.

Max Hooper Schneider,The Extinction of Neon 5, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and X Museum Beijing.

Huang cited a global set of contemporary art spaces as his inspiration for the Beijing-based museum, from the revered New York nonprofits Artists Space and the Swiss Institute to Hong Kong’s Para Site, London’s Zabludowicz Collection, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, and West Texas’s Ballroom Marfa. The greatest inspiration, he said, has come from New York City’s trendy New Museum, whose board of trustees he joined in 2016. And his five years at M WOODS have given him a particular set of skills.

Julie Curtiss, Cinatown, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and X Museum Beijing.

“I learned how the art world operates, and especially how to manage a museum in a Chinese setting,” he said. “I learned about the importance of the youth and how they push the creative industry forward.”

Now, Huang is pouring those insights into his partnership with Tse. The concept had been brewing for a long time, but he only formally began assembling the X Museum team in June—about nine months before its planned opening in March 2020. He added, “Things happen fast in China.”

Benjamin Sutton