Maria Lind, Director of the Testa Konsthall in Stockholm since 2011, is named Artistic Director of the 2016 Gwangju Biennale.

Chosen for her skills as a mediator between art and society, Swedish curator Maria Lind will be responsible for opening up the Biennale beyond existing frameworks, harmonising local and global culture, and bringing art to the wider community.

Photo of Maria Lind. Image courtesy the Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

Maria Lind. Image courtesy the Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation announced last week that Swedish curator and writer Maria Lind was appointed as Artistic Director of the 11th Gwangju Biennale. Widely considered as Asia’s largest contemporary art festival, the next edition of the Gwangju Biennale is scheduled to take place in South Korea from 2 September to 6 November 2016.

About Maria Lind

Maria Lind (b. 1966, Stockholm) has been the director of Stockholm’s Tensta Konsthall since 2011. Prior to that, she was the director of the graduate programme at the Centre for Curatorial Studies at Bard College from 2008 to 2010 and the curator at Moderna Museet in Stockholm from 1997 to 2001. Lind also co-curated Manifesta 2 in 1998 and assisted in Sweden’s participation at the 2002 Sao Paulo Biennial as well as the 1st Venice Biennale Special Exhibition (2015) this year.

Lind has enjoyed a special relationship with Gwangju. The curator and writer was a speaker in the 2010 International Workshop of Asian Culture Complex and served as an academic advisor during the 2013 Gwangju Biennale Curator Course. Speaking about her upcoming role, Lind said in last week’s press conference:

Gwangju Biennale has a great strength in carrying out a high quality exhibition and bringing about insight into Gwangju’s distinct characteristics… I will make sure next year’s Gwangju Biennale will be a place where artists, the public, people working in the art industry, and local residents gather together to discuss, relate, and communicate in the name of art.

Gwangju Biennale main exhibition hall in Gwangju, South Korea. Image courtesy the  Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

Gwangju Biennale main exhibition hall in Gwangju, South Korea. Image courtesy the Gwangju Biennale Foundation.

Connecting art with society

According to the Gwangju Biennale Foundation’s press release, Lind was chosen for her experience as a mediator between art and society. The next edition of the Biennale hopes to increase communication with civil society beyond existing infrastructures, and Lind’s expertise and skills were thought to match these new visions:

Maria Lind has been exploring the role of a mediator between art and society on the basis that breaks away from the existing system and sets her apart from the others. […] She has been conducting projects reflecting social roles of art, and executed exhibitions that revitalise[d] isolated towns and cities by encouraging citizens’ participation. […] Stockholm Tensta Konsthall, where Maria Lind has been working since 2011, is an art museum that explores social roles of art and is famous for being a hub for cultural activities.

Yangwoo Park, President of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, was quoted in the press release in saying:

Maria Lind is the most appropriate person in implementing [the] new visions of the Gwangju Biennale such as social roles of art and harmonization of local and global cultures.

Xooang Choi, 'Noise' (detail), 2014. Commissioned work for the Gwangju Biennale 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

Xooang Choi, ‘Noise’ (detail), 2014. Commissioned work for the Gwangju Biennale 2014. Image courtesy the artist and Graywall.

‘Glocalising’ Gwangju

It is also hoped that the Swedish curator will bring a fresh international perspective to the Asian-based Biennale. According to the press release, Lind intends to expand the Biennale’s status and international reach by actively connecting with art museums across the world:

[Lind’s] experiences raise expectations that she will successfully harmonise the local culture and the global culture, which is a challenge facing Gwangju Biennale. […] She intends to use the network she’s built in the international art circle to expand Gwangju Biennale’s reach by cooperating with art museums across the world and declaring them to be the “Biennial Fellows”.

As Artnet reports, the previous edition of the Biennale, curated by Dia Art Foundation’s Jessica Morgan, ended in controversy and the resignation of Gwangju Biennale Foundation President Lee Yong-woo. The censorship of a painting by Hong Song-dam, which referenced the MV Sewol ferry tragedy of 2014, caused repercussions both locally and globally. Artnet reported in August 2014 that:

The international art community has taken notice. The director of Japan’s Sakima Art Museum […] wrote a letter to the Biennale Foundation urging it to include Hong’s work in the Gwangju Museum of Art exhibition. […] “We strongly request the Gwangju Biennale [to] display the painting of artist Hong Seong-dam and respect the purpose of the exhibition,” the letter states. “Otherwise we don’t see a reason to participate in an exhibition that is losing its founding purpose.”

Michele Chan


Related Topics: curators, curatorial practice, biennales, art and the communityglobalisation of artevents in Gwangju

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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