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May 27 2020

Busan Biennale Forging Ahead for September

by HG Masters

Installation view of Busan Biennale 2018 at Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan. Courtesy Busan Biennale Organizing Committee.

The Busan Biennale Organizing Committee announced on May 28 that it is carrying on with its plans to commence its city-wide festival this fall, undeterred by the Covid-19 pandemic. The event will open on September 5 and run through November 8 in South Korea’s second-largest metropolis.  

Artistic director Jacob Fabricius also shared the title and concept for the Biennale, “Words at an Exhibition — an exhibition in ten chapters and five poems,” for which Fabricius invited ten fiction writers and one poet to write about the city of Busan. The Danish curator used those texts as inspiration for the selection of featured artists. 

Names of some participating artists were revealed, including glass artist Min Jung Song, comedic sculptural duo Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, and Bianca Bondi who works with crystals and other organic materials. Veteran sculptor Monica Bonvicini is also on the list, as well as Afghan video artist Aziz Hazara and contemporary Korean ink painter Wonhee Noh.

The Busan Biennale will take place at locations representing three primary parts of the city, including historical sites in the old town Jung-gu, a warehouse in the industrial Yeongdo Harbor, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Busan (MOCA), in Eulsukdo island, in the estuary of the Nakdong River. The venue choices were also guided by locations mentioned in the stories gathered by Fabricius.

The curator said in the announcement that he was “fascinated by the complexity of Busan, its history, and rapid urban development,” and that the process of organizing a biennale “is such a captivating challenge to imagine this exhibition through the prism of contemporary art, and merge it with the realms of literature, sound, and the visual.” The artistic director acknowledged that the Busan Biennale has been “challenged by the harsh Covid-19 pandemic, but many artists have found new ways of researching and examining the city.”

In mid-May, the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea’s largest biennale, announced the delay of its next edition from September to late February 2021. Meanwhile, the third of the primary Korean biennales, Seoul Mediacity Biennale, which usually runs biannually during the same week in September is still scheduled for this year as planned, although organizers at the Seoul Museum of Art has not yet made any official statements.

HG Masters is the deputy editor and deputy publisher of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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