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Gallery Exhibitions

Museum Exhibitions & Projects

TRIENNIAL

Echigo-Tsumari Art Tr...
Tokamachi City, Japan

July 26 – September 13, 2015

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Gwangju Biennale

September 5 – November 9, 2014

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Artist Bio

Lee Bul

PRESS

Financial Times

January 11, 2017

News

Video: Lee Bul’s Monumental Sydney Biennale Dreamscape Artinfo

April 14 2016

News

'Embassy of The Real': a Biennale of Sydney satellite show on Cockatoo Island Wallpaper* Magazine

March 24 2016

News

Artist Talk: Lee Bul 20th Biennale of Sydney

March 18, 2016, 1PM
Turbine Hall, Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, Australia

News

Sydney Biennale review – contemporary art meets sci-fi in wide-reaching show The Guardian

March 18 2016

News

Sydney Biennale Announces Artist List Artforum

October 28 2015

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Lee Bul’s Fog-Covered Installation at Palais de Tokyo ARTINFO

October 21 2015

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The Korea Herald

October 1, 2014

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The Korea Herald

September 11, 2014

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The Brooklyn Rail

July 15, 2014

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Time Out New York

June 10, 2014

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The Creator's Project

May 22, 2014

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Time Out New York

May 22, 2014

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Artinfo

May 15, 2014

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Cool Hunting

May 5, 2014

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Art in America

May 2014

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Art Review

October 2013

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Whitewall

March 20, 2013

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Artinfo

March 14, 2013

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Time Out Hong Kong

March 13, 2013

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The Wall Street Journal

March 13, 2013

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Art Asia Pacific Where I Work: Lee Bul

March/April 2013

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Lehmann Maupin's Inaugural Hong Kong Exhibition Features New Work by Leading Korean Artist Lee Bul 14 March - 11 May 2013

January 28 2013

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The Creator's Project

September 20, 2012

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Real Tokyo

April 5, 2012

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The Japan Times

April 5, 2012

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Art Asia Pacific

February 29, 2012

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The Korea Herald

February 5, 2012

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Artforum

January 2012

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Sculpture

April 30, 2011

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W Magazine

October 31, 2010

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Art + Auction

October 31, 2010

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Guardian

July 21, 2010

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Time Out New York

June 3, 2010

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Artnet

May 15, 2010

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The Japan Times

April 9, 2010

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The Korea Times

February 5, 2010

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Art In America

August 31, 2008

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Time Out New York

June 14, 2008

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The New Yorker

June 9, 2008

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Art + Auction

June 1, 2008

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The New York Times

May 30, 2008

Real Tokyo


Real Tokyo
April 5, 2012

Out of Tokyo: The Ingenuity of Lee Bul’s Show
By Ozaki Tetsuya

Critic Theodor Adorno once likened museums to graves. “Museums are like the family sepulchers of works of art,” ("Valéry Proust Museum" in “Prisms”; translated from the German by Samuel and Shierry Weber) he said, whereas we surely have to understand this apt remark as referring to art and other museums that show mainly exhibitions based on works from their own collections. However this doesn't mean that special exhibitions of presently active contemporary artists at contemporary art museums are not concerned. Artworks that are simply lined up at an exhibition easily end up looking no different from "gravestones".

In this respect, the exhibition “LEE BUL: From Me, Belongs to You Only” that is currently showing at Mori Art Museum (until 5/27) comes with a little yet marvelously effective twist that helps prevent the show from falling to "sepulcher" level. While there are of course works on display that are more or less "gravestone" exhibits, such as the 'karaoke box car' ("Live Forever" series/2001) that viewers can only look at but not enter, the exhibition at large conveys very well the appeal of Lee Bul and her unabatedly energetic work.

Lee Bul is a Seoul-resident female artist born in 1964. Her career started in the late 1980s around a core of performance works, incorporating monster-like costumes the artist further developed into the concept of oddly shaped soft sculptures that, along with drawings, earned her a worldwide reputation as one of Korea’s premier artists. Her works are characterized by shapes and lines comparable to those of Hans Bellmer or robot animations in the 1980s and later, and have been showcased at the Venice Biennale and Rodin Gallery among others. Her style is different from mediocre feminism, yet dominated by highly sensual forms that emphasize notions of life, sexuality and femininity.

Lee participated in numerous group exhibitions in Japan, and did quite a few solo shows as well. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, is one museum that has been collecting and exhibiting her works, so Japanese art fans should be well familiar with her name. Nonetheless, up to this point there weren't any retrospective exhibitions of her work of a scale as large as this. As opportunities to view art from our neighboring country in general are pretty rare, the fact that this exhibition was realized alone deserves recognition.

Lee Bul’s works have a striking visual impact, and clearly illustrate the artist’s individual sense of shape that remains largely unchanged from her debut up to the present. For those unfamiliar with Korean historical, political and social backgrounds, however, the themes hidden in each work aren't necessarily easy to figure out. I wouldn't call the show at Mori Art Museum a perfectly considerate attempt in this respect, but as far as historical and social conditions in our neighboring (Asian) country are concerned, I'd expect people to study such things independently beforehand in the first place. Even without serious research, quick-witted viewers will (perhaps) be able to obtain a great deal of background knowledge just by watching a few Korean movies or TV dramas. Anyway, the following contains some facts that may spoil the fun for those who haven't seen the show yet, so in that case I recommend you skip this part and read it once you're back from the museum.

In a nutshell, the exhibition’s special feat is ‘The Studio’, a space set up along the way around the displays. A fleeting look suggests a "replica of the artist’s atelier" kind of display as it is featured in exhibitions every now and then. Countless plans and sketches are put up row upon row on the walls, while some models of plastic works are placed on working tables. In addition, there are about 30 supposedly life-sized dog "sculptures" made from wood, cloth, leather, plaster, clay, metal and various other materials, that are particularly eye-catching. Some of them are loosely modeled using newspapers and packing tape, others have exquisitely patterned surfaces, or were assembled from small polygonal shapes. They are all differently colored, and similar only in their general shape and size.

The question that comes to mind first has to be, "What on earth are these?!?" There doesn't seem to be an explicit answer, but considering that we are in "The Studio" and thus not in a regular exhibition hall, it is quite clear that these must be prototypes born during a creative trial-and-error process through which the artist was aiming to determine the final shape of one or several works. The next question that pops up is obvious. "What does the final work(s) look like then?"

The answer is waiting in the last exhibition hall. Here the visitor can, if only briefly, retroactively track back (part of) the creative process that exists only in the artist’s mind. The work exhibited in this hall is titled "The Secret Sharer", and here visitors can in fact (partly) share secrets on a different level. It is of course also possible to enjoy guessing the connections between sketches, models, and the other works.

It may be just a little gimmick. It may be taken as "too much of a good thing" because there are already quite a few uniquely powerful works on display at once. However amidst all those "sepulcher" exhibitions that Adorno refers to, this design is an important detail, as it functions as an activator that saves the exhibits from turning into mere gravestones.

We have to keep in mind that the Studio is not a faithful reproduction of an existing atelier, but a pseudo replica with fictional elements. According to an explanatory caption, “In the Studio section of this exhibition visitors can catch a glimpse both of the process leading up to this during which Lee Bul crosses between the world of ideas and reality, and of the world of her imagination in a recreation of her studio space.” This however can – and probably should – be understood as an artwork within the artwork that is carefully executed in both a physical and conceptual sense.

As is the case with other distinguished contemporary artists, Lee Bul’s artistic universe isn't a simple one. Her creations are multi-layered, and her messages polysemous, but when trying to paraphrase the mysterious title "From Me, Belongs to You Only", and condense the continuous theme of her work into a short line, one would get to something like "from inside to outside". In my view, the "Studio" setting (as an artwork in itself) worked brilliantly as a mechanism for the viewer to filter out this general theme by way of visual and haptic perception, rather than having it explained verbally. After all, we don't want to see bone-dry, motionless corpses of the past, but witness the endeavors of artists that are alive and kicking in our time.