Curator and artists announced for 2017 Venice Biennale’s Korean Pavilion
By Hanae Ko
Seoul-based curator Daehyung Lee, notable for having organized the 2009 and 2010 iterations of the “Korean Eye” exhibition series (2009–12) at London’s Saatchi Gallery, has been appointed curator of the Korean Pavilion for the 2017 Venice Biennale. The Korean Pavilion, which has mainly featured presentations of solo artists in recent years, will comprise a group exhibition featuring Lee Wan, Cody Choi and Mr. K—two artists and a journalist, respectively—for its 2017 edition.
In an email to ArtAsiaPacific, Lee described his curatorial concept for the Pavilion as “presenting semi-fictive worlds that reinvent reality and engage our imagination, trigger our empathy, and pique our curiosity through understated means that overall emphasize our human nature and psychological complexity.”
For the exhibition, Lee Wan will create an installation that retells the life of Mr. K, an anonymous journalist who lived through nearly a century of Korea’s tumultuous modern history. As Daehyung Lee explains, using Mr. K’s biography and personal archive of roughly 1,400 photographs, Lee Wan will “explore Korea’s national history, cultural specificity and identity in a manner that is not prescriptive or propagandistic but inquisitive and open-ended,” and also push viewers to “question the universal mechanisms and symbolic strategies by which individuals construct personal meaning as well as national narratives.” Incidentally, the true identity of Mr. K—other than that he was an amateur journalist from Korea—is being kept under wraps until later this year.
Lee Wan is best known for his series of performative works entitled “Made In” that he began in 2012, where he selected major export items of countries in Asia and attempted to manufacture them from scratch while residing in the respective nations. The project—which has included making a silk jacket in Thailand and growing rice in Cambodia, among others—is part of Lee’s ongoing investigation of how major societal structures, such as capitalism, influence and affect different communities and individuals.
Cody Choi also approaches his own practice with a multicultural angle, creating works that encompass painting, sculpture, installations, ink drawings and digital art. A native of Seoul who has lived for nearly two decades in Los Angeles and New York, Choi makes whimsical works—which at times appropriate those of modern and contemporary masters such as Auguste Rodin, Mike Kelley and Gerhard Richter—that question the issue of cultural socialization and assimilation, as well as the rapid and increasingly aggressive Westernization of Asia.
Commenting on the correlation of the two contemporary artists, Daehyung Lee notes: “Formally, both Lee [Wan] and Choi can be considered conceptual sculptors who repurpose and redeploy the readymade to reveal the transnational conditions of production and consumption that come to not just works of art, but human existence itself.”
In addition to his new role as the Korean Pavilion’s curator, Daehyung Lee currently serves as art director of the Hyundai Motor Company in Seoul. Projects that he has led for the global conglomerate include the sealing of its ten-year partnership with the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea in 2013, as well as the company’s 11-year sponsorship with the Tate Modern, which began in January 2014 with a Nam June Paik acquisition. Lee, who is also founder of the Hzone curatorial consulting company in Seoul, was chosen as one of the “Power Leader 30” in 2012 by Forbes Korea, in recognition for his role in introducing contemporary Korean art to the United Kingdom through his curation of the “Korean Eye” exhibition series.
Hanae Ko is reviews editor at ArtAsiaPacific.