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.
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.
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.
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.
- Biennial new world? Art Basel Switzerland Salon talk – June 2013 – Jessica Morgan talks part in a talk on the role of the biennial in a globalised era
- Arab Museum of Modern Art appoints new director amid expanding Qatari artscape – May 2013 – galleries are also going global when it comes to finding new curators and directors
- First World Biennale Forum 2012 – What to Expect – September 2012 – biennial professionals discuss industry practices in the First World Biennale Forum in Gwangju, Korea
- Did the chorus of curators hit the right note? Gwangju Biennale review round-up – November 2011 – 6 international curators came together for the roundtable theme, but commentators were left longing for cohesion
- Japanese-Korean artist Lee Ufan gets Guggenheim retrospective – review round-up – July 2011 – spanning fifty years, Ufan’s career gets its first US retrospective
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