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Korean art gets spotlight at Venice Biennale 2024

Korean Pavilion's 'Koo Jeong A -- Odorama Cities' presents scent memories of Korea

By Park Yuna

Published : April 18, 2024 - 17:06

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An installation view of An installation view of "Koo Jeong A - Odorama Cities" at La Biennale di Venezia (Courtesy of Pilar Corrias, London, and PKM Gallery)

Korean art has come to the forefront at the Venice Biennale 2024 that kicked off Wednesday with a variety of exhibitions featuring Korean artists. The world’s most prominent art exhibition that takes place every two years opened under the theme “Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere” at the Giardini and Arsenale venues.

The main exhibition of the biennale curated by Adriano Pedrosa includes four Korean artists -- -- Kim Yun-shin, Lee Kang-seung, Chang Woo-soung and Lee Qoe-de – among some 330 artists. The overarching title “Stranieri Ovunque -- Foreigners Everywhere” for the exhibition has several meanings, according to the Biennale organization.

“First of all, that wherever you go and wherever you are, you will always encounter foreigners — they/we are everywhere. Secondly, that no matter where you find yourself, you are always truly, and deep down inside, a foreigner,” it said.

Along with the main exhibition, a total of 88 national pavilions are part of the biennale. These national pavilions may or may not present an exhibition related to the biennale's main overarching theme. The Korean pavilion this year is presenting “Koo Jeong A -- Odorama Cities” curated by Lee Seol-hui and Jacob Fabricius.

An installation view of An installation view of "Koo Jeong A -- Odorama Cities" at La Biennale di Venezia (Courtesy of Pilar Corrias, London, and PKM Gallery)

Scent memories form the corner stone of the exhibition at the Korean Pavilion. Koo collected memories from South and North Koreans as well as non-Koreans who have a relationship with Korea through an open call with the question, “What is your scent memory of Korea?” More than 600 written statements about scents from Korea were collected.

Perfumers, armed with the stories and keywords, took on the task of interpreting and incorporating them into creating 16 distinct scent experiences for the pavilion.

One of the open call participants' keywords was “grandmother’s homemade sikhye (malted rice drink) on New Year's Day."

“My paternal grandmother made sikhye every year when the family gathered for the New Year. It was a tradition, women in the family gathered in the kitchen to prepare meals for the family. … She (my grandmother) opened a hangari where her famous sikhye was waiting to be served,” Park Jee-sun from Seoul wrote. Other notes written by the open call participants can be seen on the Korean Pavilion’s website.

An installation view of An installation view of "A Journey to the Infinite: Yoo Youngkuk" at Fondazione Querini Stampalia (Courtesy of Yoo Youngkuk Art Foundation)

Among the 30 collateral events, or exhibitions that are officially approved by the organizer, four exhibitions feature works by Korean artists, such as pioneering artist Rhee Seund-ja, abstract art master Yoo Young-kuk, leading contemporary artist Lee Bae and The Gwangju Biennale Foundation’s 30th anniversary exhibition.

Other exhibitions taking place coinciding with the biennale include an exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the Korean Pavilion. Entitled “Every Island Is Mountain,” it presents archival materials and some of the works by more than 30 artists who were shown at the Korean Pavilion from 1995 to 2022. The exhibition is curated by Lim Geun-hye, director of the Arko Art Center.

After the pre-opening event held Wednesday to Friday, the biennale will open to the public from Saturday to Nov. 24. The awards ceremony, which will present the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, will be held on Saturday.