Collector Miriam Jolens was killed outside her home in Belgium, allegedly by her stepson.
Myriam Ullens and her husband Guy Ullens were well-known for their support and advocacy of contemporary Chinese art. According to several Belgian media reports, on March 29th, Myriam Ullens was shot and killed by her stepson Nicolas Ullens outside their home in Ohain, Brussels. Nicolas has been detained by the police. Guy Ullens survived the incident. Myriam Ullens was 70 years old, and Nicolas is the son of Guy and his ex-wife, who used to work for the Belgian State Security Service.
Local media reported that Myriam and Guy were sitting in their car outside their home at around 10 am when Nicolas shot his stepmother, killing her on the spot. According to multiple reports, Myriam and Nicolas had been in a long-standing dispute over inheritance issues.
Myriam and Guy Ullens got married in 1999 and have been important and influential art collectors for decades. Their collection of Chinese art began with ancient scroll paintings but eventually shifted to contemporary art. In 2007, they opened the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, which was considered China’s first international contemporary art museum. They exhibited over 2,000 pieces from their collection and continued to promote contemporary Chinese art exhibitions and public cultural activities. In 2017, they sold the museum to Chinese investors. Under the Guy and Myriam Ullens Foundation based in Switzerland, they continued to expand their collection activities.
“If many of the artists in this project are Chinese, it is because we have had long and close relationships with them. This is just the tip of our iceberg – we will continue to pay attention and work closely with the new generation,” Myriam once told the media. “A collection is like a living, breathing organism that develops organically.”
Myriam, formerly known as Mimi, is a cancer survivor who founded the Mimi Foundation in 2004. The foundation established a center within hospitals to provide physical and mental therapy for cancer patients. In 2013, she co-organized an exhibition and charity auction during the Frieze Art Fair in London to support the Mimi Foundation.
Myriam was born in Cologne, Germany and achieved early success in the food industry. She later married Belgian businessman and baron, Guy Ullens, and devoted herself to the fashion industry (launching the Maison-Ullens brand) and charitable causes. The couple’s philanthropic activities also included the establishment of the Ullens School in Nepal.