M WOODS is a private contemporary art museum founded by collectors Lin Han, WanWan Lei, and Michael Huang. The museum is located in Beijing’s 798 Art District in a 2500-square-meter former munitions factory. M WOODS presents major single-artist and group exhibitions and maintains a studio-style artist residency space. In 2015 M WOODS became the first Beijing art museum in 11 years to receive official not-for-profit status from the government.
Let’s start with some basic context. You were born in Beijing, grew up in London and are now studying at University of Pennsylvania, yes? What is your major?
Yes, that’s correct. So now Beijing, London, and New York could all be considered my hometown. My major is Art History.
When and why did you, Lin Han, and Wanwan Lei found M WOODS? What are the strengths of the collection, the space?
M WOODS was founded to create a new kind of global non-profit arts platform in China, and to showcase our private collection on an institutional level. While collaborating with major art institutions and collectors worldwide to stage international exhibitions, M WOODS remains fully committed to its mission of supporting young artists and thus sustaining the development of contemporary Chinese art.
Does the collection have a particular theme or focus?
No—we aim to break boundaries in art.
Tell me about your new show Full of Peril and Weirdness: Painting as a Universalism. Did you curate the show? What is one of your favorite pieces on view?
The show is curated by Robin Peckham and Wanwan Lei. It is a very thorough presentation of a group of highly influential contemporary artists from 18 countries who are forging new ways of thinking about painting. It showcases different painting styles and techniques in China, Southeast Asia, the United States, Europe, and South America, bringing the most outstanding young artists from each region into a global dialogue. My favorite pieces were by Jack McConville, Austin Lee, Katherine Bernhardt, and Bodu Yang.
What are some upcoming projects from M WOODS? How do you imagine M WOODS in five years?
We deliver two major exhibitions a year. I am spearheading a project, which consists of a prize that provides international artists under the age of 35 a chance to be shown in Asia, as well as promoting them on an international level. I think M WOODS is already the most youthful and experimental art museum in China. I hope in five years it will become the first museum people think about when they talk about contemporary art in China.
When visiting M WOODS, what are the other not-to-be-missed museums/spaces in Beijing?
How do you see your role as a young collector within the larger art world? Do you hope to inspire your peers to start engaging with collecting art? Do you hope you will inspire others to take Millennial collectors more seriously?
I see myself as an ambassador of art and the art industry for the younger generation, especially. I am still in university, and more and more students are becoming intrigued by the art industry, seeing what I do. Also UPenn selected six students for this year’s promotional video, and I am very happy to be selected to demonstrate my involvement in art and culture. I definitely hope to inspire my peers to start collecting art. I think collecting from a young age really has the advantage . . . you get to know the younger generation of artists really well and grow with them. I have been discriminated against before because of my age, but it only pushes me to work even harder. There are more and more young people doing absolutely amazing things in the art world so Millennial collectors will be taken more seriously.
How do you use social media as an art collector? What does Instagram expose about the art market?
I use Instagram mostly to engage with friends sharing moments in my life and to promote art I like. Instagram gives the public more opportunities to experience art, and the act of taking an Instagram almost becomes a form of art-making.
Where do you collect—a combination of fairs, galleries, and auction houses?
Yes, all of these.
Naturally you collect for your museum, but do you also collect to understand your generation?
To be honest, my role at the museum is to understand my generation more, and the works I collect into the museum collection tend to be representative of my generation.
We’ve experienced a lot of speculation in the emerging market. All that aside, which three artists have you most excited right now?
Nicolas Party, Austin Lee, and Simon Denny.
Are there particular movements you are drawn to? post-Internet? The New Abstraction?
I think I am very much a paradox myself. I am a very visual person who appreciates great painting skills. So I am always drawn to the Old Masters, the Dutch period, and the Impressionists. But on the contrary, I also like post-Internet art a lot as I grew up with this culture. Simon Denny and Amalia Ulman are artists I follow closely.
What are some specific collectors and collections that inspire you?
I think my partners Lin Han and Wanwan Lei definitely give me the most inspiration, probably because we talk so much about art and collecting—the best way of learning is through conversations. I really enjoy looking at the Zabludowicz Collection and the Beyeler Foundation, especially at how they form their collection. I am always very impressed by Lenore and Herbert Schorr after I speak to them. They are always up to date with the new artists after so many years of collecting.
What was your last purchase? And the top three works on your wish list?
My last purchase is a white painting by Jo Baer. I think the top of my wish list is always going to be René Magritte and then Robert Ryman. And in terms of younger artists, I really want a painting by Firenze Lai.
What’s next for you after graduation?
I think M WOODS will take up most of my time. But I want to stay in New York for a while after I graduate, so I hope to explore some other opportunities as well.