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Curators as Cultural Mediators: the Gwangju Biennial in the Context of Globalization of Korean Art Since the 1990s

Eunhee Yang 1

1건국대학교 글로컬문화전략연구소

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Gwangju Biennial, initiated in 1995 and grown as the fifth major biennial in the world, is one of the significant sites of globalization in Korea. Since its conception, the biennial has been strategically sponsored by the central government at times even showing conflicting interests between art and political communities. As a result, it has been difficult to establish a system allowing autonomy for commissioners and curators apart from the powerful bureaucratic culture and the influence of local artists. Before the biennial, the concept of curatorship was not a commonly accepted one in Korea. Government-sponsored exhibitions were realized by artists and art critics who conventionally formed a hierarchical structure including numerous committees. Thus the Gwangju Biennial became a testing site for implementing Euro-American standards of exhibition culture and the concept of independent curatorship. This paper examines how invited national and international art critics and curators impacted the newly-born biennial influencing a global audience and establishing an artistic directorship similar to the counterparts of Venice Biennale or Kassel Documenta. Among those discussed are Harald Szeemann who as one of the commissioners propagandized ‘creative curating’ for the second Gwangju Biennial and Okwui Enwezor who became the first international artistic director in 2008.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.