The Korea Herald


Gwangju Biennale seeks to stay course despite controversy surrounding outgoing president

By Park Yuna

Published : June 2, 2021 - 17:43

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Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Hall (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald) Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Hall (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

The Gwangju Biennale is pushing for the 14th Gwangju Biennale to be held in September 2022 as scheduled and the appointment of a new president for the foundation after Kim Sun-jung, the current president, was accused of misconduct as leader of the organization.

The Gwangju Biennale, the largest art biennale in South Korea, typically takes place in September. The most recent biennale was delayed twice to April, however, due to the pandemic. The 13th Gwangju Biennale ran for 39 days directed by artistic directors Natasha Ginwala and Defne Ayas with the theme of “Minds Rising, Spirits Tuning,” closing on May 9.

“We will aim to have next year’s biennale in September as usual,” Lee Yong-sup, chairperson of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, told The Korea Herald. “But the plan can be adjusted depending on the pandemic situation and after discussion with the new artistic directors if they say the schedule is almost impossible.”

The committee to select the new president will be formed and the foundation will keep an eye on the allegations concerning Kim, the current president, whose contract expires in June. She assumed the presidency in 2017.

The Gwangju Biennale Labor Union uploaded a petition to the Blue House website on May 31 claiming that Kim “has monopolized the foundation, running it as a private organization, and trampled on the human rights of some employees by bullying them.”

“There have been some issues within the foundation and the labor union seems to have unleashed all complaints after issues regarding unfair dismissals surfaced,” said a person related to the foundation on condition of anonymity. “She might be a talented curator, but this is about her leadership problem.”

Kim has been a leading figure in the art scene as a globally recognized curator, having served as a co-artistic director of the Gwangju Biennale in 2012 and as commissioner of the Korean Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale. In 2020, Kim was ranked among ArtReview’s 2020 Power 100 list.

By Park Yuna (