Gwangju Biennale names Tate Modern’s Jessica Morgan as Artistic Director 2014

UK curator brings a taste for non-western art to Asia’s longest running biennial.

Jessica Morgan, international curator at London’s Tate Modern, will join the 2014 Gwangju Biennale (5 September – 9 November) as Artistic Director. Morgan brings a certain globalism to the Korean event, having presided over the Tate’s expansion of its non-western exhibitions and acquisitions since her 2010 appointment.

Jessica Morgan, recently appointed artistic director of the 2014 Gwangju Biennale.

Jessica Morgan, recently appointed artistic director of the 2014 Gwangju Biennale. Image courtesy Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

Gwangju Biennale Foundation general director Lee Yongwoo cited Morgan’s international curating experience as influential in the Foundation’s selection of her for the role of Artistic Director. In an accompanying press release, Lee said,

Jessica Morgan has been known for organising innovative and experimental exhibitions for the past twenty-odd years, and we believed that she would be able to bring new artistic visions for the twentieth anniversary edition of the Biennale.

Jessican Morgan and artists unknown in the West

In her role as the Tate’s Daskalopoulos Curator, which she has held since 2010, Morgan oversaw exhibitions and acquisitions which led the London gallery to previously neglected regions and artists. Recently, the gallery’s six-month solo show of Lebanese modernist Saloua Raouda Choucair marked the first time, says Laura Cummings in The Observer, that the Tate dedicated a show of such magnitude to an artist almost completely unknown in the West. Morgan also curated several Korean artists during her time at the gallery, including Lee Ufan and Sung Hwan Kim.

Image from the opening of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale.

Image from the opening of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale.

A new vision needed for Gwangju Biennale?

It is yet to be revealed what form Morgan’s “new artistic visions” will take at the 10th Gwangju Biennale since the event theme will be announced later in the year. Nevertheless, ARTINFO noted Morgan’s enthusiasm to emphasise the city’s history in the upcoming biennale, “as Gwangju has been the backdrop for a controversial 1980s political uprising and has since been a symbol of Korea’s democratisation movement.”

A new vision for the event may well be welcome as the 2012 event received a lukewarm reception from art critics and media commentators. Under the theme of “Roundtable”, six female curators from Asia collaborated on the exhibition: although winning plaudits for its pluralism and attempt to represent the multiplicity of the biennial experience from the likes of Frieze blog, critics such as Anna Somers Cock, writing in The Art Newspaper, thought the experiment failed.

Curators of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale. From top left to bottom right, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Sunjung Kim, Mami Kataoka, Alia Swastika, Carol Yinghua Lu and Nancy Adajania.

Curators of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale. From top left to bottom right, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Sunjung Kim, Mami Kataoka, Alia Swastika, Carol Yinghua Lu and Nancy Adajania.

The Gwangju Biennale

Asia’s longest running contemporary art biennial, the Gwangju Biennale was established 1995 in commemoration of the Gwangju Uprising, a pro-democracy movement which took place in 1980. The Biennale’s previous themes have included “Beyond the Borders” (1995), “Unmapping the Earth” (1997), “Man + Space” (2000), “Pause” (2002), “A Grain of Dust, A Drop of Water” (2004), “Fever Variations” (2006) “Annual Report: A Year in Exhibitions” (2008) and “10,000 Lives” (2010). The most recent edition of the event, 2012, was themed “Roundtable” and was directed by Massimiliano Gioni, who went on to organise the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Cassandra Naji

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Related Topics: Korean art and artists, biennales, events in Gwangju  

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