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  • May 11, 2020

Major Korean Biennale Pushed Back to 2021


The Gwangju Biennale, South Korea’s largest and longest-running biennale, and the central event of the Korean contemporary art calendar every two years has been postponed from September until February 2021. The Gwangju Biennale Foundation president Sunjung Kim announced that the 13th edition will be held beginning February 26 and running through May 9, 2021. 

Even though the country has largely contained the outbreak of Covid-19 and has begun loosening restrictions, Korea’s uncertainty about holding large-scale gatherings still prevented the Biennale from going ahead as planned for 2020. Additionally, the Biennale was concerned about the safety of artists and visitors while traveling and viewing the show, as well as how new site-specific commissions could be created, and how artworks would be transported internationally.

As Kim said, the Gwangju Biennale Foundation “will work to address the various challenges and variables that will arise in the production of this international art event that involves artists from around the world.” The artistic directors of the 13th Gwangju Biennale, Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala further added that, “Despite the optimism brought by the response to the pandemic in South Korea, the decision to postpone the 13th Gwangju Biennale to February 2021 had to be taken.”

Titled “Minds Rising, Spirits Turning,” artists of the 13th Biennale will explore expanding ideas of intelligence and consciousness from the artificial to the organic, and from the indigenous to the animistic. Among the participants already announced are Korakrit Arunanondchai, John Gerrard, Candice Lin, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sylbee Kim, and Shen Xin. Several pre-biennial events have already been held in October 2019 as well as in early January 2020, before the outbreak of Covid-19.  

In a statement, the curators said: “Our commitment remains with artistic practices that enable mutating, itinerant, hybrid and, at times, undisciplined alliances. As such, we are working with artists and thinkers with mind-expanding practices that act beyond the binary framings of insider and outsider, legal and illegal, masculine and feminine. Each invested in traversing ancestral knowledge, augmented intelligence, and healing systems while honoring the foundational role of the undead in shaping registers of ‘the real’ across worlds of the living.” 

The other Korean biennials, including Mediacity Seoul at the Seoul Museum of Art, and the Busan Biennale, in South Korea’s second largest city, have not yet made announcements about their plans though they are still scheduled to take place in early September.

HG Masters is ArtAsiaPacific’s deputy editor and deputy publisher.

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